We live in a world that makes it deceptively simple for an individual to seem an expert, and with a plethora of information available to the average punter, why even bother with professional qualifications? This is really a question about what type of society do we want to have.
Everyone can Google? If only it were that simple. Not all information is created equal, as discussed in an earlier post, information is weaponised, intentionally inaccurate, and sometimes just unintentionally misleading. Additionally, not all individuals know how to interrogate and evaluate the information they obtain, with only themselves to assess their learning the need for qualifications becomes evident.
We are in the ‘fourth industrial age,’ and as is much reported the current workforce is facing unprecedented change, that requires an ‘adaptable and a proactive,’ approach or workers will face ‘becoming extinct’ (The Conversation, 2009). However, the fact that this is the fourth industrial age indicates that change has happened before, and that some people successfully negotiated those changes and some didn’t. The million dollar question is then, how do we future proof our students and ourselves?
Technology is evolving at a pace that makes specific curriculum targets within the school environment difficult as what we train students to do in terms of hard skills could be obsolete by the time they graduate. Significantly, this same issue is present within tertiary institutions as well.
A focus on personal epistemology throughout the curriculum enables learners to examine the ideas that they hold about knowledge. In terms of adaptability, what we are being asked to do is become life long learners, this is easier if you have the tools to ‘resolve competing knowledge claims, and evaluate new knowledge,’ (Hofer, 2001). The qualified professional will have an understanding of the exisiting claims and be able to evaluate and incorporate new information as is appropriate, they will be able to apply academic rigour to their thinking and in turn work processes. If the explicit understanding is that knowledge within an information environment is fluid, and that learning is a process then individual identity is centred around a reflective process that accepts learning is a lifelong process (Hofer, 2001). Personal belief systems about knowledge influence an individual’s ability to acquire knowledge and make sense of it (Hofer, 2001).
Most importantly, the benefits of developing an understanding of personal epistemology reaches beyond the workplace into our individual lives, it is our connections with each other that promote wellbeing. Relationships like technology evolve and change over time, requiring individuals reflect and make fundamental decisions based on the knowledge process they undertake.
Where does this leave us? Qualifications aren’t enough to ensure professional relevance in a changing world, however ontological knowledge in conjunction with an understanding of personal epistemology provides us with a foundation to negotiate change.
Teacher Librarians are in a unique position to develop and lead epistemological inquiry within educational institutions through explicit teaching of skills to professional and student bodies, as a society we need individuals who are able to critique and evaluate their ways of knowing.
Hofer, B. K. (2001). Personal Epistemology Research: Implications for Learning and Teaching. Journal of Educational Psychology Review, 353-384. Retrieved from
The Conversation (2019) In an AI era, lessons from dinosaurs help us adapt to the future of work Retrieved March, 2019.