Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Epistemic Frames -- take one

To get my mind around the idea of epistemic frames, I'm reading the following articles: Shaffer, David (2004?) "Epistemic Frames and Islands of Expertise"

In it, Shaffer describes the benefits of participating in an infusion experience, as displayed in the schooling, behavior, and confidence of Natalie. He merits the organization of her expertise around a particular coherent epistemic frame as the reason. He uses Crowley and Jacob's (2002) concept of islands of expertise, which create 'abstract and general themes' that students are able to use in other contexts" but extends it to affect a student's identity and participatory role in a community of practice (p. 7).

Drawing on Lave and Wenger (1991) Shaffer says, "pedagogical praxis (Shaffer, in press) extends communities of practice" (p. 4). He agrees with Browdy's (1977) assertion that knowing that and knowing how are incomplete without knowing with -- but Shaffer adds that to really be complete it also needs "knowing where to begin looking and asking questions, knowing what constitutes appropriate evidence to consider or information to assess, and knowing when to draw a conclusion and/or move on to a different issue" (p. 4). This strikes me as being a parsed out version of Jim Gee's big-d Discourse right now. But then that still seems to me to be a re-write of L&W's CoPs. I'll have to figure out the differences as I read more.

So, when he suggests, "Epistemic Frames are the organizing principles for practice" (p. 4), perhaps he is merely defining an aspect of CoPs or Discourse. Maybe he's suggesting that CoPs refers only to the community, and EF is an element within a CoP that structures it. In which case, Gee's Discourse would refer to the behavior of and within the community that is guided (organized) by the principles of its EF. This makes smart academic sense -- it takes a good theory and breaks it down into elements, pulls in a colleague's work as one element, and defines and names another element.

Put most simply: Shaffer's Epistemic Frames guide Gee's Discourse of Lave & Wenger's Communities of Practice.

I wonder if I can get on this train. The action/behavior of the individuals and group is taken by Gee. The mental processes of the individuals and groups are taken by Shaffer. The group itself is L&W. The elements that are not discussed include: the body itself, and the effect of place. Perhaps if I focus on the embodied situatitivity of the being in social/geographical space/place -- that's more along the lines of my FML interest and research anyway.

Well, I should read more on EF to be sure I got it right.


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