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KNOWLEDGE, KNOWLEDGE INTEGRATION AND THE CONCEPT OF THREE TYPES OF KNOWLEDGE

14 July, 2023
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To know and to do are good bed fellows. It is dangerous to do when you do not know and to know but never do. Not doing when you know and doing when you don’t know does not add value to anything of value. Therefore, correct or effective doing requires appropriate knowledge. It is also possible to use knowledge wrongly, or to do things without knowledge, that may be destructive to nature, environment, humanity, other beings, education, health, communities, society and the biosphere (the sphere of life). To-date we have used small pockets of knowledge called disciplines to provide simple solutions to complex problems, which has ended up making problems even more complex because the solutions themselves become new problems with additive power.


One may want to know what I take knowledge to be. Well, the word knowledge is a noun from the verb “know”. Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines it as “to have information in your mind as a result of experience or because you have learned or been told it”. It defines knowledge as “the information, understanding and skills that you gain through education and experience”. The education may be formal (education received in a school, college or university) or informal (education gained practically through practical experience in family, community, society and environment -rural, urban, national, regional, continental and global). 

Many philosophers define knowledge as justified true belief (that is knowledge consists of belief that is true and justified). Some renowned scholars have given varying definitions of knowledge. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) said Knowledge is experience. Everything else is information”. O’Dell and Grayson (1998) said Knowledge is information in action”. Bates (2005) said “Knowledge is information given meaning and integrated with other contents of understanding”. Bates’ definition is what brings us closer to the value of integrated knowledge: broadening knowledge and understanding through knowledge integration.

According to Springer Link knowledge integration is the process of merging two or more originally unrelated knowledge structures into a single structure. Integration ensures that all systems work together in harmony to increase productivity and data consistency. In addition, it aims to resolve the complexity associated with increased communication between systems since they provide a reduction in the impacts of changes that these systems may have. (elearningindistry.com). I have over the years become academically and professionally attracted to knowledge integration and have written and spoken widely about its value improving teaching and learning in our institutions of higher learning.

Before I transformed myself into an advocate of knowledge integration towards the end of the 20th Century, like many knowledge workers, I embraced the concept of 7 types of knowledge, namely: Explicit Knowledge, Implicit Knowledge, Tacit Knowledge, Declarative Knowledge, Procedural Knowledge, A Posteriori Knowledge and A Priori Knowledge. But there were also the concepts of 4 types of knowledge, 9 types of knowledge, 10 types of knowledge and 14 types of knowledge.

With the rise of the knowledge culture of transdisciplinary knowledge integration, I embraced the concept of Three Types of Knowledge, which nonetheless had its origins in the 1990snderpinning, and has developed into a core concept underpinning transdisciplinary research. 

The concept of Three Types of Knowledge was revisited by Tobias Buser and Flurina Schneider February 11, 2021. In rearticulating and reclarifying the concept of Three Types of Knowledge, these two scholars first posed this question:

“When addressing societal challenges, how can researchers orient their thinking to produce not only knowledge on problems, but also knowledge that helps to overcome those?”

Then the two scholars go on to submit that “The concept of ‘three types of knowledge’ is helpful for structuring project goals, formulating research questions and developing action plans. The three types of knowledge are:

Systems knowledge, which is usually defined as knowledge about the current system or problem situation. It is mainly analytical and descriptive. For example, if you think of water scarcity, systems knowledge refers to producing a holistic understanding of the relevant socio-ecological system, including aspects like water availability, water uses, water management, justice questions, and their interrelations.

Target knowledge, which is knowledge about the desired future and the values that indicate which direction to take. It relies on deliberation by different societal actors, and is based on values and norms. In the water scarcity example, ways of producing target knowledge could include participatory vision and scenario development with a wide range of stakeholders.

Transformation knowledge, which is about how to move from the current to the desired situation. It includes concrete strategies and steps to take. In the water scarcity example, producing transformation knowledge could, for instance, employ a collaboration platform between water rich and water poor communes to coordinate just water distribution, as well as to provide detailed and feasible water saving measures.

 

The concept of ‘three types of knowledge, submit Buser and Schneider, is helpful for structuring project goals, formulating research questions and developing action plans.  It is a 21st century imperative, which should attract the attention of integration scholars, professionals and project and policy designers.

 

Failure to take the concept of Three Types of Knowledge in account can only mean resistance to change in all spheres of human life and actions in our environment. Education curriculum planners and designers will and can greatly benefit from the application of the concept of Three Types of Knowledge in effort to institutionalize and popularize knowledge integration in higher education.  If we are to widen the minds of the learners, we need to expose them to the practice and value of knowledge integration. It will be graduates produced integratively that will fit in the professional demands of the 21st century and have their employability enhanced. The alternative is catastrophic. Already graduates produced in narrow pockets of knowledge and practice have extremely reduced marketability and employability. Many can only take up jobs unrelated to their training. A good number are being sucked into the booming modern slavery industry that is compelling them to flow to the Middle East to perform dehumanizing jobs.


Prof  Oweyegha-Afunaduula

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