Epistemology of practice and its consequences in practice : Educating for knowing-in-action in working life

Sammanfattning: Education and competence development are of increased interest in today’s society and organizations, to increase the wellbeing, lifelong learning, and mobility of the labor force, and contribute to companies’ global competition. As a consequence, formal and informal education is growing. However, there are dilemmas when developing professional competence e.g. bridging the gap between theory and practice, trying to increase employability in higher education, and the degradation of professionals’ knowledge. These dilemmas can partly be due to epistemology and the difficulty to act in accordance with one’s epistemology. Previous research has presented Technical Rationality (TR) as the cause of the problems and an epistemology of practice as an alternative approach. The aim of this thesis is to contribute to a deeper understanding of a holistic epistemology, i.e. what an epistemology of practice is, and its consequences for the view of professional competence and educational design in different contexts. Beyond this, the aim is also to analyze the quality of learning needed to reassess one’s epistemology. The theoretical framework is based on Schön’s work on epistemology of practice, the competence of a professional i.e. knowing-in-action, and educational design i.e. the reflective practicum. Mezirow’s theory of Transformative Learning (TL) is used to analyze the quality of learning. The four included studies are used as examples of different educational situations in different contexts; in Studies Ι and ΙΙΙ how managers in a research intervention learn to become enabling managers, in Study ΙΙ, how pupils in a vocational school are learning to minimize work environment risks in their future work, and in Study ΙV how HR students learn to foster collective learning within organizations. The results show the importance of being aware of one’s epistemology, and to act according to it. From an epistemology of practice approach, the overall conclusion is that adding practice is not enough, it is important to balance theory, practice, and reflection to enable knowing-in-action. The role of the teacher/supervisor to handle both theory, practice and reflection using reflection-in/on-action and coaching strategies such as joint experimentation, follow me and hall of mirrors to enable knowing-in-action is emphasized. The design of an education needs to be adapted to the participants’ former experiences and access to work practice. To enable reassessment of epistemology, TL is proposed, since a quality of learning which enables deep learning is needed. 

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