EDEV_505 Week 9_3

Thank you for pointing out the potential emptiness of the rhetorical force of mission and value statements and for describing some of the core values in your case in detail. These two inclusions provided a depth to your post that was satisfying to read. I was reminded of Stephen Brookfield’s insight on the first page of his book on critical theory:

“Postmodernism contends that the world is essentially fragmented and that what passes for theoretical generalizations are really only context-specific insights produced by particular discourse communities” (Brookfield, 2005, p. 1, emphasis mine)

We, as modern researchers, have a duty to clarify the assumptions underlying our statements and situations. Failing to do so merely perpetuates misunderstandings and does not promote deepened awareness.

I am appalled and dismayed at the necessity of writing for proscribed journals. In my present and immediate past positions, faculty members were ‘encouraged’ to apply for one type of governmental research grant, to the exclusion of all others, our pay the penalty of having our research budgets cut by 50,000 yen (around 350 pounds sterling). As this is something we have in common, I’d like to make a few comments.

All-knowing management

Is management all-knowing in its understanding of the boundaries of academic research? Kline (2010) describes the tension between academic management and the scope deans have in playing with the truth. Upper management may wish to keep policies occluded somewhat, even though faculty members can often work out some probable motives. It is possible that an analysis has been conducted that points to the efficacy of using certain journals if the overall aim is to be a world leader. Journal impact factor and other factors play into this equation. However, without seeing the list of journals, I can’t comment more fully, but it’s unlikely that every possibility is covered. Also, how much flexibility in scope for article type is available in these journals?

As a side note, the use of the term ‘grants’ could easily be the subject of a critical analysis. This word has always troubled me. But I’ll briefly elucidate the main thrust of my worry regarding your situation in three short sections.

Knowledge management

Ever since Polanyi (1962) introduced the notion of tacit knowledge, areas of expertise that professional have little or no cognitive control, there have been numerous studies into the nature of tacit knowledge. Schön’s (1991) The Reflexive Practitioner is one such attempt to base a theory of practitioner knowledge on uncovering tacit abilities. In the field of knowledge management, especially in the business realm, many theorists advocate the belief that institutional learning and development arises when tacit knowledge is conceptualised and methods of conversion into other forms of knowledge, i.e. explicit and ‘know-about’, are attempted (Hinds & Pfeffer, 2003; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). My argument here is that if only proscribed journals are allowed, the desire to expand knowledge creation is likely to be curtailed.

Blind and blank spots

Which leads to the next point of exactly how to develop new knowledge, or at least where to look. Wagner (1993)  familiarised researchers to the idea of blind spots and blank spots. This article is a MUST-READ for any doctoral candidate and for that reason is reprinted almost twenty years later in the Routledge Doctoral Student’s Companion (Thompson & Walker, 2010). Basically, a blind spot is an area of research that cannot be seen given the current paradigms within any discipline. If, for example, linguists focus only on grammatical form, they become blind to how social forces mould meaning. A blank spot is self-explanatory: an under-researched area with a given paradigm. Reading at a meta-level, Walker points out the necessity of inter-disciplinary study. Another theory that can be associated with Walker is adjacent possibility theory (Schultz, 2011) in which subtle sideways views from one’s own position may reveal other likely scenarios.

Sociology of knowledge

Space is running out, but I’d like just to point you in the direction of sociology of knowledge and the reification of the ‘standard’ disciplines. Prioritising one type of knowledge over another is a highly value-laden act. Shay (2013) offers a good analysis of how particular branches of knowledge are prioritised and legitimised.

Your situation regarding the proscription of journals seems to me to be a recipe for disaster in the medium to long term, if you ask me.


Brookfield, S. D. (2005). The Power of Critical Theory: Liberating Adult Learning and Teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Hinds, P. J., & Pfeffer, J. (2003). Why Organizations Don’t “Know What They Know”: Cognitive and Motivational Factors Affecting the Transfer of Expertise. Sharing Expertise. Beyond Knowledge Management. http://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0703993104

Kline, D. (2010). On Telling Faculty the Truth. In E. E. Englehardt, M. S. Pritchard, K. D. Romesburg, & B. E. Schrag (Eds.), The Ethical Challenges of Academic Administration (pp. 143–150). Dordrecht: Springer.

Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Polanyi, M. (1962). Personal knowledge: Towards a post-critical philosophy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Schön, D. A. (1991). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Schultz, R. (2011). Adjacent Opportunities: Present Possible, Adjacent Possible, Possibly Possible. Emergence: Complexity and Organization, 13(3), 152–156.

Shay, S. (2013). Conceptualizing curriculum differentiation in higher education: a sociology of knowledge point of view. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34(4), 563–582. http://doi.org/10.1080/01425692.2012.722285

Thompson, P., & Walker, M. (2010). The Routledge Doctoral Student’s Companion: Getting to Grips with Research in Education and the Social Sciences. Abingdon: Routledge.

Wagner, J. (1993). Ignorance in Educational Research: Or, How Can You “Not” Know That? Educational Researcher, 22(5), 15–23.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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