Authors: Marcelo Giglio, Mauri Kantola, Mervi Friman, Inneke Berghmans & Manuel Peixoto.
In this Special Issue The European Association for Practitioner Research on Improving Learning (EAPRIL) joins forces with the Journal of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences (UAS Journal) to highlight practitioner-researchers’ visions of future education and learning. This is the second special issue reported by EAPRIL and UAS journal (see https://uasjournal.fi/arkisto/eapril/). EAPRIL and UAS Journal both focus on research and development in education. That is, on the one hand, UAS Journal focuses on the fields of practice-oriented higher education in Finland since 2011 and, on the other hand, EAPRIL focuses on practice-based research and bridging research and practice with the aim to improve learning, both in education and organisations.
From the point of view of the higher education research, the classification proposed by Teichler (1996) may serve a good basis to analyse the themes of the articles included in this special issue. As of the beginning of the millennium, Teichler’s classification proved to be an important model for structuring higher education research (Ahola & Hoffman 2012). In addition to the classification itself, Teichler’s four areas of research have thought to include links to the different knowledge interests in various fields of science.
Teichler (1996) has argued that research on the challenges in our demanding higher educational system has an integrative task on two important stages: firstly, it aims to stimulate the use of theories, paradigms and methods of the various disciplines, and secondly to integrate knowledge concepts in different disciplines. He has pointed out that if research on higher education tries to draw from single disciplines, paradigms and spheres of higher educational research, this might be only appropriate for a minority of themes. It could also lead to artificially narrowing the scope of the subject, which is not suitable for striking the balance between theoretical insight and a sufficiently complex understanding of the object of analysis (Teichler 1996). In this sense, the Teichlerian framework (Teichler 1996, 2000, 2003) also suits our purposes when studying the included articles of our special issue, as this special issue aims for a multidimensional approach, covering various paradigms and settings.
In this issue, the pedagogical research has been popular among authors. These themes have included questions that have otherwise also sparked plenty of discussion in the public platform. Workplace orientation towards the future of students, including workplace relations and employment, has not been a particularly common topic in this edition. The classification of the articles presents clearly the profile of EAPRIL, which promotes practice-based research on learning issues in the context of initial, formal, lifelong and organisational learning. EAPRIL’s mission is to bring together persons who are interested in the connections and reflections between research and practice. (https://www.eapril.org).
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Last year, EAPRIL hosted its 12th annual conference under the theme ‘Inspired by the visions of future education and learning’ in Hämeenlinna, Finland, at the Häme University of Applied Sciences in close cooperation with the Federation of Universities of Applied Sciences (FUAS). This EAPRIL 2017 Conference proved to be a rich space for creative, innovative and reflexive exchanges between delegates. It has inspired the EAPRIL Executive Board to call for papers on this important topic, looking from the past to the present, but also anticipating the future visions of education and learning based on current views and expertise. This particular focus complies with the contemporary need of the world and, consequently, with the current need of all the levels of education and training. Starting this millennium, UNESCO promoted a humanistic vision of learning based on principles as respect for life, the human dignity, the cultural diversities, the social justice and international solidarity presented. It was reported in the two landmark publications by UNESCO ‘Learning to Be’ (Faure et al. 1972) and ‘Learning: The Treasure Within’ (Delors et al. 1996). Between 2010 and 2016 several informal and formal meetings of UNESCO served as platform opportunities to reflect and present frameworks for competencies and learning objectives for Education for Sustainable Development, Global Citizenship Education on the future of education and skills programmed by OECD. Some of the conclusions were that education needs to aim at interdisciplinary learning and students’ competencies to solve problems through multiple lenses considering an uncertain and volatile world. The publication ’The Future of Education and Skills 2030’ (OECD 2018) offers a shared vision on the advice as need for new solutions in a rapidly changing world; need for broader education goals with individual and collective well-being; learner agency – navigating through a complex and uncertain world – ; need for a broad set of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values in action; competencies to transform our society and shape our future; and design principles for moving toward an eco-systemic change. Giglio (2014) identifies five dimensions of educational and institutional creativity and innovation:
the purpose of the change as a challenge to the future,
the reaction to change by actors,
the creative action to improve the roles and skills of the actors,
the social interaction between individuals and partnerships, and
the forms of contribution to the future.
In this international context the contributions of this EAPRIL – UAS Journal Special Issue address practice-based research as a form of inquiry, to share visions, ideas and solutions that inspire the presence and future of education, while acknowledging historical-cultural backgrounds. In fact, different contributions and discussions organised at the EAPRIL 2017 Conference illustrate how our professional experiences and research are situated in this evolutional world. Step by step, we face new opportunities for human advancement in the future of education. Creating and following-up on these opportunities entail uncertain and unpredicted creativity and innovation of education and learning. However, current research can help to understand, reflect and anticipate some of these problems and/or to provide some tools and methods to improve learning. Looking back at the past years, we can sense the speediness of change experienced today. How can we consider this in the future of education and learning? How can we utilise current practitioner research as a doorway to the future? The universities of applied science have definitely a crucial role to serve in educational research. However, which designs, methods, tools and ideas are pivotal? What are (or should be) the roles of educators, developers and employees in evolutionary forms of thinking and acting of students and employees in a continued evolution of technologies?
Knowledge, working, research, teaching, and learning are never exhaustive and always evolutionary. Consequently, a future vision on education and learning cannot be but a part of the current and professional thinking and acting of educational practitioners and researchers.
This EAPRIL – UAS Journal Special Issue hopes to contribute to the development of education, curiosity, imagination, creativity and innovation by presenting ideas, perspectives and values of our contributors. Both ‘study cases’ and ‘research results’ are presented in this Special Issue, matching our aim to bridge practice and research. Both will demonstrate the important role of practice-based research as a form of inquiry, of creating and sharing visions, dreams, new ideas and innovative solutions, all with the aim to inspire both contemporary and future educational developments, while acknowledging historical-cultural backgrounds.
It was a pleasure to edit the articles of this Special Issue, which invited us to reflect and to (re)think our own understanding of education, today and tomorrow, generating new ideas on living, working, learning, teaching and research. We hope these articles can plant some seeds for new educational developments, covering our foremost aim of improving learning for the future.
Marcelo Giglio, HEP-BEJUNE, Switzerland & University of Neuchâtel Mauri Kantola, Turku University of Applied Sciences, Finland Mervi Friman, Häme University of Applied Sciences, Finland Inneke Berghmans, University of Leuven/EAPRIL Project manager, Belgium Manuel Peixoto, EAPRIL Board, Portugal
Delors, J., Al Mufti, I., Amagi, I., Carneiro, R., Chung, F., Geremek, B., Gorham, W., Kornhauser, A., Manley, M., Padron Quero, M., Savane, M.-A., Singh, K., Stavenhagen, R., Won Suhr, M. & Nanzhao, Z. (1996). The treasure within. Report to UNESCO of the international commission on education for the twenty first century. UNESCO Publishing. Referred 25 June 2018: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0010/001095/109590eo.pdf
Faure, E., Herrera, F., Kaddoura, A.-R., Lopes, H., Petrovsky, A. V., Rahnema, M. & Champion Ward, F. (1972). Learning to be. The world of education today and tomorrow. UNESCO. Referred 25 June 2018: http://www.unesco.org/education/pdf/15_60.pdf
Teichler, U. (2000). Higher education research and its institutional basis. In S. Schwarz and U. Teichler (eds.), The institutional basis of higher education research – Experiences and perspectives. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 13–24.
Teichler, U. (2003). The future of higher education and the future of higher education research. Tertiary Education and Management, 9, 171–185.
This special issue is initiated by EAPRIL (The European Association for Practitioner Research on Improving Learning). EAPRIL is a platform for practitioner and practice-based research. This year it will hold its 11th annual conference for practitioner research on improving learning in education and professional practice https://eaprilconference.org . EAPRIL was initiated 11 years ago by the well-known ‘European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction’ (EARLI). EARLI wanted to support practitioner research through establishing a platform where practitioners and researchers conducting practice-based research can meet and exchange research results in a highly interactive way. Nowadays, EAPRIL and EARLI collaborate as independent research associations.
EAPRIL research conference presentations are reflected in the articles in this special international issue of the UAS journal and address practice-based research as a form of inquiry that can be used and implemented to support life long workplace learning for a variety of professionals and occupations (EAPRIL conference proceedings, 2014, 2015 https://eaprilconference.org/proceedings/ ).
The broad interpretations of ‘practitioner research’, and practice-based research require a clear epistemological basis demonstrating the relationship between research and practice. According to Heikkinen, de Jong and Vanderlinde (2016) such clarification goes back to Aristotelian philosophy which explored the ways that knowledge is obtained, what purpose it serves, and how practitioner research differs from academic research. This yields theoretical knowledge as well as two kinds of practical knowledge. Although all three are relevant, the so called ‘practitioner knowledge’ (the phronesis and the techne), need more attention in judging the merit of practitioner research. Heikkinen, et al. (2016) stated that good practitioner research needs its own methodological principles. De Jong, Beus, Richardson and Ruijters (2013) emphasized that practitioner research is more than just the old way of doing research in its search for the truth. It also has to do with enhancing co-creation and wisdom of practitioners and their praxis. It might even have a total different epistemic underpinning.
After EAPRIL’s first special issue ‘Studies in Vocational and Professional Education’ (April 2016, Journal Vocations and Learning) EAPRIL and UAS journal were talking about a collaboration for the next special issue. This resulted in the current issue with eleven wonderful insights, from five different European countries.. Some contributions even cover many other European countries. You will find articles about activities in UAS by UAS teacher-researchers, inquiry-innovators writing about educational innovations which reflect their passion to improve the education offered in UAS; to support the development of their students; and to offer them learning experiences in enhancing the collaboration and interaction between education and practice. The focus is on improving the activity system of practice, as well as students’ development and research by trying to make UAS education more responsive to students, responsive to practice and responsive to society.
From the Finnish viewpoint this UAS Journal (est. 2011) special issue in collaboration with EAPRIL organization is important in many ways. Firstly, it includes interesting articles and shows that the problems and challenges in European higher education are rather similar. This issue, as itself, is bridging researchers and practitioners from different European countries.
Secondly, this issue is a reflection on the history of the UAS Journal. The roots of UAS eJournal are in KeVer network (2000-2009) and KeVer eJournal which was published as one part of networking activities. The purpose of Kever was to develop and strengthen pedagogical, methodological and RDI actions in UAS education, which began in Finland in 1991. The method of working in KeVer was to combine research and practice, researchers and practitioners. The backgrounds of the network members were researchers working in the universities and research institutions and teachers, as well as researchers and developers working in universities of applied sciences. When KeVer network activities finished, the ejournal transformed from a research-based journal to a magazine format. So,this special issue after some years, makes visible the research linked to UASs.
Finally, this issue is hopefully a beginning for a fruitful collaboration among Europeans who share an interest in combining research and practice as a method of developing teaching and learning. Complexity and uncertainty in the world demands strong networks and communities, feelings of shared interests and goals. EAPRIL and UAS-journal wants to support such networks as being places to exchange and build insights together in the development of praxis.
Reading the articles in this issue, you will notice that the responsivity to students and practice is seen as a crucial element of the UAS education as a means for students’ development into competent professionals for their future working life and contribution to society. In some more conceptual oriented articles, for instance, from Meijer and Kuijpers (in this issue) this education-practice relationship is seen as a gap that has to be bridged. According to others like Van den Berg (in this issue) it is more a matter of crossing borders, which requires certain abilities. Kukokonen (in this issue) integrates this dilemma in five key elements of good student experiences, such as authenticity and collaboration.
The articles show that in general the core issue in being responsive to students’ learning on the one hand and professional practice on the other hand, seems to enhance interaction, collaborative learning, co-creation of knowledge in the efforts to support and improve the relationship between research, education and working life (practice) as a responsive educational activity system. An activity system in which students develop abilities, skills and knowledge that anticipate the (future) needs of working practice, society and personal life. Such activity systems and the diverse educational examples illustrated in this issue, should be considered regarding the different perspectives and emphasis of the learning processes described: for example cooperative, collaborative and knowledge creation and derivative pedogagical methods. This means that emphasis on transfer of knowledge is based on a totally different epistemic basis from the co-creation of knowledge. In addition, cooperation does not always mean that students are engaged in a mutual learning process, or that collaborative learning might be a collective group learning but that it differs from collective knowledge creation in order to contribute to the idea development of the community.
Moreover, it is sometimes important to reflect on generally accepted theories of learning from a different perspective. For example De Jong (2015) approaches learning not as matter of knowledge transfer or acquisition, but as a semiotic, meaning-constructing process to combine incoming information with already held personal and community cognitive concepts and ideas. Even the stimulus-response learning is a process of giving meaning to a stimulus in relation to an action.
Table 1: Different manifestations of learning as a semiotic, meaning building process and the impact on change, the thinking that is learned and relatedness to practice (world 1), school knowledge (world 2) and knowledge creating Popper’s world 3.
A process in which ‘the other’ might be at a very distant or might be very close to the interaction of the process of meaning construction. This semiotic process manifests itself in learning in three ways:
Zero learning and Learning 1) e.g. natural biological learning in daily practice;
You can think of habituation, sentization, stimulus-response learning
Learning 2) cognitive learning in schools, courses, trainings; and
You can think of Piagetian cognitive constructivism; accumulative and accommodative learning.
Learning 3) social interactive learning in groups, teams, communities.
You can think of cooperative, collaborative learning and knowledge building/creation.
These levels differ in what leads to change; what kind of thinking is learned and if the impact goes beyond current practice and habits, current knowledge and thinking or becoming familiar with and enculturate in the world of building knowledge and understanding (see table 1). In relation to the articles in this issue the level of social interactive learning is seems to be very relevant because it is mentioned almost in all of them. To provide you as reader a lens to reflect on the articles in this special issue we will elaborate more in depth about this level and its consequences in the next paragraphs.
Social interaction and Cooperative learning
Let’s take a look at cooperative learning settings such as: Learning Together & Alone; Teams-Games-Tournaments (TGT); Group Investigation; Constructive Controversy; Jigsaw Procedure; Student Teams Achievement Divisions (STAD); Complex Instruction; Team Accelerated Instruction (TAI); Cooperative Learning Structures; Cooperative Integrated Reading & Composition (CIRC) (Johnson, Johnson, & Stanne, 2000; Loeser, 2008).
Cooperative learning involves students working together to accomplish shared learning goals. (Johnson et al., 2000; Johnson & Johnson, 1999). Each student can achieve his or her learning goal if – and only if – the other group members achieve theirs (Deutsch 1962, as cited in Johnson et. al., 2000). Review studies show, that cooperative learning significantly increases students’ achievement in comparison with competitive, individual learning situations. It does not mean that all operationalizations are effective in the same way (Johnson & Johnson, 2009; Slavin, 1980). From the above mentioned studies ‘Learning together’ seems to be the most effective (David W Johnson et al., 2000). The five most basic pillars of cooperative learning are: individual accountability, positive interdependence, face-to-face promotive interaction, group processing, and interpersonal and small group skills. Students feel that they cannot work without the participation of one or more group members. The central principle of cooperative learning is that students learn through interaction and dialogue with others, mostly in small groups, around a topic of study to achieve a common goal according to David Johnson and Robert Slavin .
‘Learning with others’ enables social interaction as a kind of ”cognitive apprenticeship to learn the school learning material and enhance the individual learning” (Hartmann, Angersbach, & Rummel, 2015). Social interdependence enables individual motivation and cognitive learning (Slavin, 1980, 1996). What we see is that information, complex codes, models and scientific theory are interpreted and reconstructed by labour division in a group (Dillenbourg, 1999). It is the cumulative collection of interpretations of a group, not yet the group cognition (Stahl, 2006) of collective knowing. Or as Hartmann et al., (2015) interprets this, as an endogenous form of constructivism: the source of knowledge construction is the individual processes. No new artefacts are created collectively. You can regard it as a kind of individual cognitive learning. Cognitive learning on a group level where the social interaction scaffolds the individual interpretation of information. So reading a book with others gives you access to interpretations of information by others that helps you to reconstruct the knowledge represented in school textbook. This is because you see things you did not notice or others together contribute more foreknowledge than your own. Communication then becomes learning. It focuses on what is known already and the subjective learning in the mind of (Popper’s world 2 (refered by Bereiter, 2002) school books and standard tests. It is effective in an improved study achievement (David W Johnson et al., 2000).
What epistemologically develops is an awareness that people think differently and interpret differently and you can learn from each other. Social interactive process skills are learnt together with dialogue to understand content.
The difference between cooperative and collaborative learning is roughly described by Dillenbourg: “(…)in cooperation, partners split work, solve subtasks individually and then assemble the partial results in the final output. In collaboration, partners do the work “together” (Dillenbourg, 1999, p. 8). This doing together is according to Dillenbourg a process by which individuals negotiate and share meanings. The difference lies in the fact that, in collaborative learning, the knowledge construction is not an assembly of individual understandings, such as in cooperative learning, but collaborative, group interactions such as negotiations and sharing of meanings (Stahl, Koschmann, & Suthers, 2006, 2014).
According to Beers, Boshuizen, Kirschner, & Gijselaers, (2005; 2008) collaborative learning can be characterized as social interaction focusing on the development of a common ground and shared knowledge. The two are formed through negotiation and knowledge exchange. This may be in a dialectic conversation of agreeing and disagreeing with messages, making your position known to group members, posting rejections to messages that are unintelligible or objectively incorrect in the eyes of someone else. A process from unshared knowledge externalisation to knowledge construction integration takes place (Beers et al., 2005, see fig. 1). Despite this formalism of the process, their studies show different effects concerning, for instance, reaching a common ground (Beers et al., 2005).
However, the main point is that groups are seen as a major source of knowledge construction with a social and interactive dimension (Miyake & Kirschner, 2014). This social dimension involves aspects such as interdependence, social and task cohesion, group potency and psychological safety. Often these social aspects are underestimated in (Computer Supported) Collaborative learning (CSCL) in contrast to co-construction and constructive conflict in the sharing and meaning making group process (Kreijns & Kirschner, 2003). In this social process learning ability in the sense of (co-)regulating content and community processes is vital for people to become used to share knowledge, deepening their own and common understanding and creating further insights (De Laat, De Jong, & Ter Huurne, 2000).
Stahl (2006, 2010) emphasises much more group cognition and collaborative knowledge building as the character of collaborative learning. One could call this kind of knowledge building ‘co-creation’ of knowledge. Stahl describes that this happens in an ecology where teachers act as facilitators and less as instructors or in the case of CS computer environment act to “supports the interactions among the students themselves” (Stahl, 2006, p. 3). According to Stahl, collaborative knowledge building is effective when the group is engaged in high level cognitions of “thinking together about a problem or task and produce knowledge artefacts like verbal problem clarification, a textual solution proposal, or a more developed theoretical inscription that integrates their different perspectives on the topic and represents a shared group result that they have negotiated” (Stahl, 2006, p 3).
The eco-semiotic process in collaborative learning can be seen as a dialectical negotiating in small groups (Hartmann et al., 2015) about the difference in signs, information, consisting of the different individual opinions, perspectives formed from individual eco-semiotic process based on their own experience (world 1) and information of schoolbooks (world 2), perhaps also scientific information (world 3) and the perspectives of others in the collaborative group. The sharing of the perspectives and the negotiation, debate, discussion is the process of finding common ground for the co-construction of a group knowledge perspective.
The interactions with others reveals the difference in individual perspectives, which form a source of knowledge. Hartmann et al., (2015) indicate this in the context of collaborative learning as a dialectical process. So a social interaction where the difference is synthesized in a process of thesis and anti-thesis becomes a group cognition. Others are important in (CS)CL in getting to know the difference between the various interpretations of individuals as a source to understand by negotiating them in group dialogue, debate, discussion and arriving at a consensus or perspectives of what a phenomenon, theory is about or what a creative solution is for a problem or question in the context of a learning or work task.
In the social interaction the personal practical experience (world 1) and the ideas of the personal subjective mind (world 2) become part of the collective conversation and knowledge construction process. This thinking the past may reveal different modes of thinking, old ways of looking at particular phenomena. In the first place this is in the ecology of ideas of the subjective mind (world 2). Students develop an epistemic awareness of the common ground and subjectivity, the man-made character of knowledge artefacts.
From a transition viewpoint, where multidisciplinary approaches are desirable, collaborative learning has, for example, high potential because of the negotiability of knowledge and the interdependent process of finding a common ground and cohesion in something such as group cognition (whatever this epistemological means). Learning becomes knowledge construction and is no longer a solitary individual process, but also a group process.
Knowledge building (Bereiter, 2002; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2006a)(Bereiter, 2002; Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2006a) or knowledge creation (Nonaka, 2006; Nonaka & Toyama, 2003; Nonaka, 1994) concerns the same processes, although knowledge building is more education related and encompasses a greater range of concerns (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2014). Both certainly consist of the social and group dynamic processes as is the case in collaborative learning. However, the latter does not always include the systematic, methodological, empathic and hermeneutic process of knowledge creation (see also Kukkonen this issue). In knowledge building the social interactions are also an enculturation in world 3 of scientific knowledge, the world of conceptual artefacts.
Despite the formulated collaborative learning formalizations such as scripts (Dillenbourg & Hong, 2008), roles (Strijbos, 2004) or orchestrating graphs and workflows (Dillenbourg, 2015), they don’t support such an enculturation, but they do support the group process in CL. Tools in knowledge building environments support the development of ideas, theories, conceptual thinking and artefacts and enculturation in World 3. It refers to a set of social practices that advance the state of knowledge within a community over time (Paavola et al. 2004). The knowledge building principles are guidelines for idea improvement; they are not scripts, not linear steps to follow. The knowledge building principles “serve multiple purposes like pedagogical guides, technology design specifications, and evaluating ’existing’ practices” (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2010, p. 9).
An example of this collaborative learning and knowledge building is described by Willemse, Boei and Pillen (2016) reporting on communities in which secondary teacher educators with a variety of educational background (eg. History, fysics, geography) collaboratively conducted research into shared problems identified from practice, thus supporting the process of collaborative learning and improving practice. This process contributed to shared languages, knowledge creation and improved practices.
According to Van Aalst, (2009, p. 260) knowledge creation involves more than the creation of a new idea; it requires discourse (talk, writing, and other actions) to determine the limits of knowledge in the community, set goals, investigate problems, promote the impact of new ideas, and evaluate whether the state of knowledge in the community is advancing. Van Aalst distinguishes three modes of discourse—knowledge sharing, knowledge construction, and knowledge creation.
Knowledge sharing refers to the transmission of information between people. According to Van Aalst, knowledge construction refers to the processes by which students solve problems and construct understanding of concepts, phenomena, and situations by making ideas meaningful in relating to prior knowledge and the problem situation mediated by social interactions within a group and technologies. Knowledge construction, with its emphasis on building on students’ prior ideas, concepts and explanations, and their metacognition, produces deeper knowledge in complex domains than does knowledge sharing (Bransford et al. 1999; Hmelo-Silver et al. 2007). Van Aalst connects knowledge creation to expertise of the situations, and the requirement of environments (companies, organizations, academic disciplines) where ideas are needed to sustain innovation in order to survive as an organization, being an organic system in a big relational world.
The big difference with cooperative and collaborative learning is that knowledge building takes you directly into the process of knowledge creation as the basis of education. It is “acquiring competence in knowledge creation by actually doing it” (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2014, p. 399). It is enculturating students in their role as collaborative knowledge creators in the sense of improving ideas. Knowledge building is much more an idea improvement centred process by means of collaboration in advancement of a community.
According to Scardamlia and Bereiter (2014; Bereiter, 2002) knowledge building derives from a Popperian epistemology e.g. Popper’s ”three world” ontology. Here world 3 consists of an objective knowledge world created by the human mind. It is knowledge in the form of conceptual artefacts which can be acted on as an object. So you can work with knowledge because you can grasp it, build on it, modify it and develop it further. This is different from co-constructing knowledge as in Collaborative learning.
In relation to education, Scardamalia and Bereiter (2014) put forward 5 of the 12 principles as vital themes. 1) Community knowledge advancement. Knowledge is not a proposition of a person, but of a culture and community and it contributes to the wisdom of the community and its members. 2) Idea improvement. There is not such a thing as a final truth, perfect theory, technology or living together. It can always be improved. All ideas can be improved and in this sense all ideas are valuable. 3) knowledge building discourse as a creative role instead of a critical role and a collaborative process. 4) constructive use of authoritative information. This means all kinds of information, first-hand experience, secondary sources, etc, that has value in the knowledge building process in a constructive transliteracy practicing. 5) Understanding as collaborative explanation building: producing principled practical knowledge by connecting concrete experiences to more generalizable knowledge. Knowledge building is innovation, based on ‘principle practical knowledge’ and theoretical concepts in a coherent explanation for practical use (know-how combined with know-why).
The process of knowledge building and co-creating as responsive learning
The Popperian ontological world 3 underlies the semiotic process in knowledge building. This world makes understanding knowledge possible because we can grasp the knowledge in its form as a conceptual artefact. A concept that can be dealt with as an object, that you can work with, build on, modify and improve.
Indeed, the conceptual artefact as such form an independent entity, but not the codes, signs, language of the mind’s thinking embedded in it. That is why a student might not receive and understand the whole insight, understanding of Jeroen (Jheronimus)Bosch’s world, given by him to the community when looking at his painting Last Judgment triptych (fig. 2).
To arrive at a responsivity for the embedded codes, symbol, and signs, the artefact has to come into the mind again so that you can build on it. You have to stand in front of a Rothko painting, according to his instructions as closely as possible, to become immersed in the life, the thought, the understanding of his world embedded in the artefact to experience the change in time, space and experience resonations of a reality. In this way you can experience the redefinition of essence, and perception of scale and matter looking at Anish Kapoor creatures (fig. 3). Going into the artefact and the artefact getting into our minds is a process of transformation of our frame of reference. This process is a starting point for opening up our mind to perceive signs, codes and information as they manifest themselves in our problem, question, complexity. It is the process of noticing difference and potentials that we never perceived and understood before.
Looking at a theory is like looking at any other conceptual artefact. One has to become engaged and has to explore the thinking of theory. It is these kinds of knowledge building conversations with the others in the artefact, and with others about the artefact in which relations, e.g. differences come into language in the conversation. Not as an individual property of the interlocutors. ‘What is’, is ‘laid down in the middle’ as a ‘rising above’ in collective, in community, as a common language of collective understanding (a hermeneutic ‘collective Verstehen’). The process is a rising above by a grounded language of understanding in which the ‘old thinking’ is revealed in its inclusive principles. Higher problem formulations and new syntheses are build. Partners, knowledge builders, in the conversation, ”transcend trivialities, oversimplifications and move beyond current (best) practice” (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2010, p. 10; Scardamalia, 2002, p. 79).
The principle is the ‘knowledge building conversation’ which distinguishes itself from interpersonal dialectical dialogue, debate and discussion. The knowledge building conversation is not an adjusting to each other as partners in the conversation. Partners become engaged in the artefact, coming to the truth of the matter or praxis, under the resonation of understanding reality: a resonance of organic connectedness and dependency of our being as part of others and nature. Resonations that partners in the knowledge building conversation combine in a new common ground. In the ‘knowledge-building-conversation’ it is not merely against each other and putting your own positions forward, but a transformation into the common, into the collective. A transformation in which one does not remain who one was. (Gadamer, 1975, p. 360).
The epistemic development being involved in such a process consists of the experience that language and knowledge building conversation are a medium for individuals to understand by collective understanding. It is the development of a language of understanding the difference that makes a difference for theorie and practice. To learn thinking in organic systemic connectedness in which ‘the’ difference is a source for the interdependency of what we are and what is. Understanding that nothing is an isolated, stand-alone object, a fact, a problem, a situation, a person as such, but all of this is what it is because of the organic ever changing connectedness. So not only the facts but the relationships are important to understand as well. A knowledge building conversation discourse is what Kegan indicates as an epistemic development in not only ‘what’ we know but also of ‘our way of knowing’ (Kegan, 2009). The restructuring of the frame of receiving an artefact of reality, making it possible to question facts, consider perspectives, biases and historical roots of thinking of who created the artefact. In the knowledge building conversation discourse you experience the cross boundary reconceptualization of object, motive and history of an activity of possible expansive transformations in an activity system by exploring the cognitive and emotional connectedness (Engeström, 2009; S. Paavola et al., 2004).
Conclusion and principles
The experience of a gap or boundaries like in many articles in this issue, is actually is the lack of responsive learning in education. Bringing together research (e.g. an inquiry attitude and ability) practice and schools should be much stronger learning activities in supporting lstudents’ development. It is therefore important in developing learning environments in order to bridge imaginary gaps of crossing imaginary boundaries to be fully aware of what kind of learning is supported, and question yourself if responsive learning has space and is adequately covered and supported. Four guidelines can be taking in consideration in designing for responsive learning:
Agency: more control for students of their mental activity (Bruner, 1996; De Jong, 1992) and improving students’ own ideas (epistemic agency; (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 2006a; De Jong, 2006; Scardamlia & Bereiter, 2014): Students have ownership of their learning and ideas
Culture: ‘coming into language’ of how the way we live and think and construct thought are embedded in the knowledge we claim as ‘reality’ and how our mind set perceives and interprets signs in the ecology we are part of (Bateson, 1987; ’reflection; knowledge is justified belief’, Bruner, 1996; ’rethinking assumptions’, Sterling, 2009): Students question presumptions and ’realities’ of what they learn.
Learning together: creating meaningful connections between individual and society by ‘coming into presence’ into an intersubjective space (Stroobants, & Wildemeersch, 2001; Wildemeersch & Stroobants, 2009). The sharing and negotiation of meanings to construct shared conceptions (Charmaz, 2014; Dillenbourg, 1999; Stahl et al., 2014); explanatory coherent practical knowledge, combining ‘know-how and know-why’ aiming at solving problems, guiding practice. Understanding through collaborative explanation (Bereiter, 2014; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2014). Students build new meaning together for solutions.
Knowledge building: not simple ‘learning in the raw” (Bruner, 1996), ‘rote learning’, reproducing or solving a well-known problem, but a semiotic process of entering into a collective understanding, grounded in the consequences of the system of relations that makes a difference for life. (’community knowledge advancement’; conceptual understanding, enculturation in the world of creating knowledge; Scardamalia & Bereiter, 2014; Bereiter, 2002; De Jong, 2006; cultural artfacts, Stahl, 2006). Students learn together and go beyond what is known and done.
How do these crucial ideas enter language in teachers’ interests, their passion for teaching, their questions, their drive to improve their teaching and education? The research presented in this issue may give us some insight in the state of art and which steps are still needed.
The next three articles are more conceptually oriented studies based on practice based research. Meijer and Kuijpers approach the relationship of educational researchers and practitioners in mode 2 research as a gap to be bridged. They come up with design principles rooted in different learning and instructional paradigms. Van den Berg approached the collaboration between researchers and practitioners not as a gap to bridge but as a crossing boundaries activity that requires particular abilities from both professional sides to get into a mutual learning mode and developing a transdisciplinary ability as teacher-researcher, especially in in case the educational issue is of a complex and persisting nature. Kukkonen actually jumps into what kind of learning experience that could be especially from a perspective of students. He comes up with five specific elements of good student learning experience, which in our opinion are not limited to first year UAS students. These three articles are a good conceptual base to read and go into the other articles and make up your own ideas how UAS education and practice (and research) could become more of an effective activity system in which students develop their competence and abilities.
The next three articles actually concern practices in which gaps between education and practice within professional fields are experienced and activities are undertaken to cross the boundaries. Heldal developed a process steering instrument to enhance systematic communication between stakeholders and students’ industrial doctoral research projects. Boehm et al. is an example in which the boundaries crossed between the disciplines of arts and social care with multi professional teamwork as a bridge. In the study of Cors and Robin a science education laboratory is the support to let students cross the boundaries of science in order to develop their ideas of the world of science. Like the other articles, also this study is interesting to read from the perspective of the collaboration and boundary crossing of researchers and educational practitioners.
The last five articles concern even more innovative UAS educational practices aiming to bridge or to cross the boundaries with practice. Helminen takes a progressive position by stating models, the issue of mentoring and being credited for developing nursing competence by learning in and from daily (paid) work. Alvaikko brings students, teachers and institutional partners together in living lab in which real life problems, acting in a real ecosystem and active user-involvement contributes to the knowledge creation. An arena in which teachers mediate between wishes of partnering organizations and curriculum requirements. Karjalainen et al. also use the idea of LABs for bridging education and working life to develop students’ 21th century skills by providing students a learning experience of creating new solutions and innovations across disciplines for a more ecological and sustainable responsible economy. Laukkanen bridges the gap between education and practice by the approach of entrepreneurial coaching leading from ideas, intention to concrete business actions. Besides a good description of the educational model of entrepreneurial coaching the article also goes into the expectations and experiences of students. The last article from Koponen gives insight in the importance of good dialogical feedback, an educational instrument which is relevant for all educational settings.
This special issue by EAPRIL and UAS-journal gives voice toUAS-research practitioners who are engaged and passionate in their work to make UASs an even better learning environment for students and professionals than they are already for developing relevant knowledge, skills, competence for their future work activities, for their personal and societal lives. Our wish is that more international issues will follow to exchange and share the work that is done internationally and to enhance the responsivity of education to the developments and needs in working life and society.
We like to thank authors, reviewers, Editor-in-chief Ilkka Väänänen, and UAS Journal editorial staff.
 “Die Verständigung über die Sache, die im Gespräch zustande kommen soll, bedeutet daher notwendigerweise, dab im Gespräch eine gemeinsame Sprache erst erarbeitet wird. Das ist nicht ein äuberer Vorgang der Adjustierung von Werkzeugen, ja es ist nicht einmal richtig zu sagen, Dab sich die Partner aneinander anpassen. Vielmehr geraten sie beide im gelingenden Gespräch unter die Wahrheit der Sache, die sich zu einer neuen Gemeinsamkeit verbindet. Verständigung im Gespräch ist nicht ein blobes Sich-ausspielen und Durchsetzen des eigenen Standpunktes, sondern eine Verwandlung ins Gemeinsame hin, in der man nicht bleibt, was man war. “
Photo (spiderweb): Minna Scheinin
Frank de Jong, Aeres UAS, Wageningen the Netherlands Martijn Willemse, Windesheim UAS, Zwolle, the Netherlands Mauri Kantola, Turku UAS, Finland Mervi Friman, HÄME UAS, Finland Margaux de Vos, EAPRIL, Leuven, Belgium
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