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RESEARCH HIGHLIGHT: Epistemic Fluency and Professional Education

Epistemic Fluency and Professional Education

What does it take to be a productive member of a multidisciplinary team working on a complex problem? Increasingly, work in the 21st century begs questions like this. As an answer to this question, Lina Markauskaite and Peter Goodyear respond that one needs to have epistemic fluency to be a productive member of a multidisciplinary team working on a complex problem.

What does this mean? You are fluent in your native language by measure of how you are able to effortlessly communicate using this language in a variety of different contexts. Similarly, being epistemically fluent means being able to effortlessly use different kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing in different contexts. Like in the example of 21st century work, for example, many teams are composed of people from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, each with different domain knowledge and ways of knowing. To avoid people talking past each other, in such contexts, and to truly harness the diversity of ideas in interdisciplinary teams, we need to be epistemically fluent. 

What does it take to be a productive member of a multidisciplinary team working on a complex problem?

Markauskaite and Goodyear extensively explored this idea in their 2017 book Epistemic Fluency and Professional Education: Innovation, Knowledgeable Action and Actionable Knowledge

For a more extended summary of the book, in the authors' own words, see below (or check out their blog):


More about the book from the authors

This book, by combining sociocultural, material, cognitive and embodied perspectives on human knowing, offers a new and powerful conceptualisation of epistemic fluency – a capacity that underpins knowledgeable professional action and innovation. Using results from empirical studies of professional education programs, the book sheds light on practical ways in which the development of epistemic fluency can be recognised and supported – in higher education and in the transition to work.

The book provides a broader and deeper conception of epistemic fluency than previously available in the literature.

Epistemic fluency involves a set of capabilities that allow people to recognize and participate in different ways of knowing. Such people are adept at combining different kinds of specialised and context-dependent knowledge and at reconfiguring their work environment to see problems and solutions anew.

In practical terms, the book addresses the following kinds of questions. What does it take to be a productive member of a multidisciplinary team working on a complex problem? What enables a person to integrate different types and fields of knowledge, indeed different ways of knowing, in order to make some well-founded decisions and take actions in the world? What personal knowledge resources are entailed in analysing a problem and describing an innovative solution, such that the innovation can be shared in an organization or professional community? How do people get better at these things; and how can teachers in higher education help students develop these valued capacities? The answers to these questions are central to a thorough understanding of what it means to become an effective knowledge worker and resourceful professional.

This book…

  • Synthesises recent research into the nature of professional learning and knowing
  • Reconceptualises professional capacities entailed in working in dynamic muti-professional workplace settings
  • Presents a new account of the nature and role of epistemic fluency – defining it as the ability to integrate different kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing
  • Drawing the emerging grounded views of human cognition, offers an action-oriented perspective of professional conceptual knowledge
  • Draws attention to the role of professional capacity to construct epistemic environments
  • Sheds light on practical ways in which the development of epistemic fluency can be supported in higher education

What others say about the book

“With a strong emphasis on epistemic games, this book is itself a game changer by defining transdisciplinary perspectives of professional education and professional learning. For educators of pre-service or in-service teachers, this book is even more important as it offers an alternative to conventional understandings of cognition and learning, and an array of strategies that may also be relevant to the way we teach in secondary and primary contexts.”

"By explicating the qualities of, and conditions for producing, epistemic fluency, this book contributes to the epistemic fluency of its readers by illustrating the inter-connectivity of diverse ways of knowing in professional work and professional education. For this reason, this book is a must read for teachers and learning designers of professional education courses in higher education or professional learning contexts."

“It will position readers to appreciate the role of epistemic fluency in the increasingly transdisciplinary roles of professionals in all fields in our contemporary, globalised societies.”

James Davis (2017), Curriculum Perspectives, 37(2), 213-214

At the time of this post, Epistemic Fluency book has been downloaded ~10,000 times and received 47 Google Scholar citations.


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