Horizontal Knowledge Dynamics and the Initiation of Students in Expert Cultures: Investigations into Profession-Oriented Programs in Higher Education

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 8:42 AM
Room: 414
Oral Presentation
Karen JENSEN , University of oslo, Oslo, MN, Norway
Cecilie ENQVIST-JENSEN , Department of Education, PhD, Oslo, Norway
Monika NERLAND , University of Oslo, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
The aim of this paper is to discuss relevant approaches for studying how students in profession-oriented higher education programs become initiated in their expert culture in a period in which such cultures undergo changes in several ways. Much is written about how modes of knowledge production and distribution are in transformation in today’s society (e.g. blurred relationships between knowledge production and application; new relationships between knowledge, education and innovation; and the spatial expansion of such processes). Less is known, however, about how such developments influence educational programs and student learning.

We present a conceptual framework for investigating these relations, highlighting the concepts of epistemic machineries, epistemic practices and ‘epistementalities’ as constitutive for expert cultures across education-work boundaries. Next, we present our empirical strategy for examining dynamics of knowledge and student learning in three educational programs. We use examples and tentative findings from our first phase of data collection in law education to discuss how students get introduced to their expert culture during an intensive, inquiry-oriented introductory course.

Albeit of preliminary character, our analysis indicates that the introduction to - and training in - methodological principles for defining, exploring and solving professional problems in a structured way constitute a key mechanism of induction. By examining and integrating different sources of knowledge while working systematically on a complex problem, the students get introduced to the wider machinery of knowledge construction that constitutes the field of law.

Together with other findings, the study contributes to the field of higher education by developing new insights in the way expert knowledge evolves across the research-education-work divide. By revealing the role epistemic practices and their methodological principles play in connecting different sites in the expert culture, this study may also inform current efforts to bridge education and knowledge policies.