1 Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 Department of Business Development and Technology, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
A reasoning approach
“Knowledge” is of the utmost significance for professional practice and learning. Today, though, the established knowledge base is changing in all areas of the labour market (Alvesson, 2004). Work and society are dominated by commitment to demands for high levels of demonstrable accountability, cost-efficiency and measurable quality. Thus, today, evidence-based practice has become an expectation and fashion, often used to emphasize the grounding of practice in research based knowledge that provides measurable evidence for best practice. But at the same time, there is a growing distrust of the supremacy of this kind of knowledge, and traditional monopolies of knowledge are challenged (Gabbay & May, 2010). In the literature, there is an on-going debate about professional knowledge enacted in diverse settings. This debate presents a wide range of epistemological terminologies and typologies, which are governed by different conceptions as to what count as knowledge, how it is produced and used, by whom, etc.. Consequently, according to some scholars, the concept of vocational knowledge has become fuzzy since it has come to “cover both everything and nothing” (e.g. Alvesson, 2004). Others find that the wide range of terminologies and typologies creates “an epistemological mess” that causes confusion and ruins effective communication and understanding among practitioners, educators and researchers (e.g. Titchen & Ersser, 2001). Taking a Wittgensteinian approach, my paper will argue that ending the debate about knowledge is neither desirably nor necessary, it is not even possible. Because of the diverse and dynamic character of vocational knowledge, no conception hereof is all encompassing and final. Following Wittgenstein, knowledge involves judgments, e.g. judgments regarding the characteristics of a thing, a situation, an action, or something else, and judgments involves criteria, either explicit or implicit criteria. Thus, the Wittgensteinian approach I take suggests a more interpretative, reasoning approach, one that is sensitive to ambiguity, incoherence, multiple meanings and contradiction within professional practice and learning. Hence, it suggest the need to move beyond current ideas of an evidence-based practice towards a conception of an evidence-reflected practice in which professional knowledge is regarded not as a fixed base, but as a field of ambiguity and multiple meanings which organization members are trying address both questions of rigor and of relevance of what they are doing.