Thursday, March 5, 2020

You look down, hearing the sound of the faces in the crowd (Pink Floyd)

Heavy hitters chewing over what epistemology means.

Okay - back to understanding what a meddler-in-the-middle does.

I'm about to make a series of seemingly random points and observations (it's how my brain works) but there are links and common themes, trust me.

First things first: it appears that the original article used to introduce the meddler idea is worth returning to - Erica McWilliam's Teaching for creativity: from sage to guide to meddler.

The first time I read it was in quick preparation for our digital conference and I found the article dense and difficult to grasp.

So, back to the future we go...

Good thing too, as it turns out, as I'd missed the link to creativity first time I read it; she argues the value of meddling-in-the-middle 'in order to build students' creative capacity'.

To me, talking of creativity is akin to talking about quality. Blimin' difficult and fraught with misunderstandings and differences of opinion.

Being creative, according to Erica, is having 'a propensity for epistemological agility rather than...for artistry'.

By the looks of it, Epistemology is a concept that every philosopher worthy of a Monty Python sketch, has had a go at defining over the years.

At its widest application, it means 'understanding' and more narrowly - 'having the ability to distinguish between justified belief and opinion'.  

Epistemology addresses some really heady questions, such  as: 
  • What makes justified beliefs justified?
  • What does it mean to say that we know something?"
  • Fundamentally - "How do we know that we know?
Erica defines creativity/ epistemological agility as 'the capacity to work productively across knowledge domains'.

Erica then applies this definition to employment in the global environment. That is - creatives contribute by theorizing, they see the big picture, experiment  and collaborate with others. Thereby innovating. Thereby saving the planet.

Erica claims that it is much more important for teachers to model how to be 'usefully ignorant' and to assist students, rather being all-knowing (even if we could be, we can't anymore - the technology genie is well and truly out of the bottle).

The meddler-in-the-middle, then, is a builder of creative capacity.

I get that.

I also like the way this model positions teachers and students as mutually involved in 'assembling and/or dis-assembling knowledge' together.

It's a learning partnership, which as Erica points out, has powerful implications for assessment and beyond!

Next post: Part 2 - the second half of this article which discusses teaching Shakespeare as an example of how to be a meddler.

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