My Professor’s View on Knowledge

Note: This is a review of my professor’s article on knowledge.

Johnson, R. B. (2008). Knowledge. In L. M. Given (Ed.), The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods (pp. 478-482). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

In his article, Johnson (2008) addressed the typologies of knowledge, affective variables, standardization, debates, and its history. Knowledge is often defined in simplistic terms as scientific, commonsense, or religious. He described knowledge as the accepted understandings of phenomena in our universe. Dewey called this warranted accertability. Paradigm wars occur over the nature of knowledge, epistemology.

In cognitive psychology, knowledge typologies are broken into declarative (ability to make a statement), procedural (process oriented), and situated knowledge (contextual). Another typology of knowledge is in terms of tacit (internally understood) or explicit (externally expressed) understanding. The former could be procedural or situated knowledge. The latter is aligned with declarative knowledge. Another typology categorizes knowledge as subjective (nuanced by lifeworld), intersubjective (commonsense from community), and objective (warranted accertability). Johnson described how objective knowledge is defined in many different ways by scholars.

Knowledge comes from discoveries and sense-making of humans. We store it in our minds and in our books. We also “carry” it in our societal interactions, as part of our reality. This is referred to as structuralism. Some scholars like Plato believed that there are universal truths. Knowledge is either true or false without any go-between (absolutism). Other scholars like Protagoras believed that knowledge is relative (relativism). Related to this idea is Hume’s problem of induction, which states that we cannot separate ourselves from what we are investigating; therefore, all we can know is our experience with it. Our interaction with that which is studied changes it.

This also relates to Kuhn’s idea that knowledge is a construct of psycho-social and objective variables. These viewpoints have caused debates historically and affect scientific inquiry today. Johnson described the current paradigm war between qualitative, quantitative, and mixed research, as a current day Plato versus Protagoras debate. Johnson promotes mixed research as the best method for seeking knowledge of a phenomenon. He proposed several flexible paradigm emphasis (QUAN+qual) and time/order emphases (Qual →QUAN) for designing a research study.

Knowledge must be somehow justified as true and people must believe it. This phenomenon is called justified true beliefs (JTB). For example, creationists believe that a god placed man in full form on Earth; they do not believe that we evolved from other species. Apparently, the evidence for man’s evolutionary span from nonhuman species is not adequate for some to accept. As expected, there are different theories about truths. For example, correspondence theory relates statements with facts. Second, coherence theories consider information true if it fits within the relevant existing theories. Third, pragmatic theories about truth focus on the practical application of the knowledge that works. Last but not least, at the individual level, Bem and Bem described psycho-logic as man’s own reasoning at the personal level.

Sandra Rogers

Author: teacherrogers

Content developer, instructional designer, trainer, and researcher

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