Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Recognizing Learning

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jun 04, 2007

Responding to Rob Wall, who says:

"Literacy, of any type, is about pattern recognition, about seeing how art is like physics is like literature is like dance is like architecture is like …Literacy is not about knowing where the dots are. Literacy is not about finding dots about which you may not know. Literacy is about connecting the dots and seeing the big picture that emerges."

Yes. Exactly. This is a very key point.

Put this in context (this came up in a discussion in Den Bosch a few days ago)...

When we think about 'what being a physicist is' or 'how we know a person is a qualified physicist':

- these are (crucially) *not* redicible to a set of necessary and sufficient conditions (we can't find a list of copentencies, for example, or course outcomes, etc., thast will define a physicist).

- the way an examiner knows whether a students is a qualified physicist is not by *measuring* whether they have succeeded, but rather in *recognizing* that they have succeeded.

... and the reason for this is that the measurement is an inaccurate abstraction - it consists in identifying a few (salient) features of 'being a physicist' and elevating these to the position of *defining* being a physicist.

But this abstraction:
- is not the same as 'being a physicist' - it will typically include things that (in certain contexts) are unimportant, and leave out things that are important
- is not an *objective* account of 'being a physicist' - it reflects a skewed perspective that reflects the biases and prejudices of the person doiung the defining (this is especially apparent in a rapidly changing field, where a person may be 'recognized' as being an authority even though he/she does not satisfy traditional 'criteria' (competences, outcomes) defining an 'authority'

(That's why we do not want to collapse the individual data points in a 'team' - why we don't want to define a 'common goal' - because this obscures the pattern in the team membership, and prevents us from *recognizing* things that are important resulting from the interactions of the members).

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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