Educational research and undiscovered public knowledge

Barr, J. (2007) Educational research and undiscovered public knowledge. Studies in the Education of Adults, 39(1), pp. 22-37.

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Donald Swanson, a library scientist at the University of Chicago, has coined the phrase "undiscovered public knowledge". As a university-based adult educationalist I am particularly interested in the "undiscovered public knowledge" which lies in the spaces beyond the academy, especially in the many associations, groups and movements involved in civil society, some connected via the Internet, which are developing knowledge rooted in projects. Some of these, such as the World Social Forum (WSF) and the "Global Justice Movement", actively challenge the instrumentalist presuppositions which currently guide much university research. The focus of this paper is the fate of such "undiscovered public knowledge" in a context of "lifelong learning" and the marketisation of universities. Such independent sources of popular knowledge have been important in the history and practice of adult education, part of a tradition with roots in independent working-class education which reaches back to the Chartists, Owenites and Correspondence Societies of the nineteenth century. This tradition long precedes the idea of adult education as an "institutional" form, long before adult educators became professional agents of "lifelong learning". The paper suggests an agenda for (adult) educational research which does not pin its credibility on its ability to produce generalisations, but judges it in terms of its contribution to thoughtful practice and informed judgement. The central argument is that in the current context of adult and higher education internationally, solutions to problems of significant intellectual and social impact can be easily ignored because they do not relate to what academics are trained and rewarded to see.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:06/07-2
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barr, Professor Jean
Authors: Barr, J.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Journal Name:Studies in the Education of Adults
ISSN:0039 3525 and 0266 0830

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