How to claim knowledge: The use of information in the lifeworld of the educational context

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Research and Development in Higher Education: Learning for an Unknown Future Vol. 26

July, 2003, 692 pages
Published by
Helen Mathews and Rod McKay
0 90 8557 55 8

Using a small body of empirical data concerning the types of information students handle, this paper inquires into the problematic of knowledge creation, artifacts of knowledge, and the possible role of examination as a negative factor in students’ reflective achievements. Habermas’ theory of communicative action is proposed as the theoretical framework for analyzing the educational environment seen as a lifeworld. From the observed fact that types of information students themselves produce (papers, essays, lecture notes, master theses, etc.) are hardly mentioned as information they say they handle, the tentative conclusion is drawn that these missing types are systematically excluded. The theoretical framework provides an explanation for this state of affairs. The overall goal of higher education is to increase knowledge in a particular field. In teaching, however, this goal is dealt with in a training manner, clearly manifest in the examination process. Therefore, the action orientations of the students will differ more or less from the overall goal. Claims of validity connected with knowledge turn in a normative direction in action situations oriented towards examination. Since information is the link anchoring claims of validity, students become inclined to exclude the artifacts of their own knowledge creation. The latter are not viewed as dealing with information linking the claims connected with the overall goal of increasing ‘real’ knowledge, instead being taken as constituting the links for normative claims. The paper also proposes certain means in line with the theory for improving this state of affairs.

Keywords: Communicative action, concept of information, reflection

How to claim knowledge: The use of information in the lifeworld of the educational context

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Backlund, J.