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professional and academic competence

Ronald Barnett has been an astute commentator on knowledge and the kind of knowledge that universities produce. In his much cited book on types of competence he contrasts the kind of knowledge that academics produce with that of practitioners. I think there are two key strengths in the chapter we provide:

  • he discusses differences in types of knowledge in depth, i.e. in respect to Epistemology; Situations; Focus; Transferability; Learning; Communication; Evaluation; Value orientation; Boundary conditions; Critique. I don't think he is implying a value judgement he is telling us these are different spheres of competence and it is no good pretending they are not.
  • he seeks what is a possible synthesis between these two spheres in the idea of real world knowing. Again this might not be the object of either practice or academic undertaking but it is one additional sphere of competence that might help us think about the contribution of academic knowledge.

Before reading this paper what distinction if any would you make between academic knowledge (the kind of knowledge that is validated in academic journals and by academics who are at a distance from practice) and practitioner knowledge (the kind of knowledge professionals use to carry out their work and the new knowledge they create to carry out their work in different ways?) Consider this in respect to what counts as a problem? how is a problem defined? how is a solution validated and critiqued? how is a solution communicated?

Click here for the article:

Ronald Barnett (1994) The Limits of Competence: Knowledge, higher education and society, Open University Press: Buckingham UK. pp 157 -173

After reading the article is there a space in higher education and indeed in your work for 'real world knowing'?

You may also want to look at literature on practice based knowledge in:

Eraut, M. (2000). Non‐formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70(1), 113-136

Evans, T. (2002). Part-time research students: are they producing knowledge where it counts? Higher Education Research and Development, 21(2), 155-165.

Gherardi, S. (2000). Practice-based theorizing on learning and knowing in organizations: Sage Publications Sage CA: Thousand Oaks, CA.