International Research Conference, Lancaster UK, 21-23 July 2014
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Surfing the waves of learning? Exploring the possibility of enabling greater cumulative knowledge building through pedagogy using Semantics

Sherran Clarence, Directorate of Teaching and Learning, University of the Western Cape, sclarence@uwc.ac.za


This paper contends that current research and practice in teaching and learning that tends to overfocus on social aspects of education is influenced by constructivism, a paradigm that tends to have a relativist stance on knowledge, generally arguing that knowledge is constructed in socio-historical contexts and is therefore largely inseparable from those who construct it and from related issues of power. This leads to a conflation of knowledge with knowing, and knowledge is thus obscured as an object of study. Being able to see and analyse knowledge as separate from but connected to knowing is important for understanding how we can build knowledge, both conceptual and applied, over time within educational contexts. Legitimation Code Theory, in particular the dimension of Semantics, is proving particularly useful in examining some of the conditions necessary for students’ ability to build ‘powerful knowledge’ (Young, 2008) cumulatively over time in their fields. This paper will report on part of the findings from one case study within a larger study to show how semantic tools can provide us with a different way of thinking about teaching as enabling students to become familiar not just with ‘content’ and ‘skills’ that are often seen as two different parts of teaching or curricula, but also with connected concept chains within disciplinary ‘systems of meaning’ (Wheelahan, 2010). Drawing on qualitative data obtained from teaching observations, interviews and document analysis, this paper argues that the ‘what’ of learning – the knowledges of the discipline – must be a clear and present part of designing pedagogic approaches, and must not be conflated with the knowing of them. If we overfocus on knowing we risk constraining many students’ ability to see the systems of meaning they are working within as well as their ability to work effectively across the boundaries between ‘everyday’ and ‘theoretical’ knowledge (Wheelahan, 2010). The paper suggests that the conceptual tools offered by Semantics in particular can provide academic lecturers with a set of tools that can enable them to 'see' and understand their own teaching more clearly, as well as the possible gaps between what they are teaching and what their students are learning.

Link to Full Paper (If submitted)

Conference Organisers

Paul Trowler
Lancaster University, UK

Alice Jesmont
Lancaster University, UK

Malcolm Tight
Lancaster University, UK

Paul Ashwin
Lancaster University, UK

Murray Saunders
Lancaster University, UK

Chrissie Boughey
Rhodes University, South Africa

Suellen Shay
University of Cape Town, SA

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