Knowledge Networks in Higher Education

Knowledge Networks in Higher Education

Filipa M. Ribeiro (University of Porto, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch340
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Background

The role of social networks for the creation of knowledge has been studied outside the educational field, highlighting the crucial role of formal and informal networks in organizational learning by stimulating new knowledge and new practices (Ahuja, 2000; McGrath and Krackhardt, 2003). However, less is known about the role of social networks in the field of education. In fact, up to this point there is only one book published on social networks and education (Daly, 2010).

A social network is a collection of individuals (commonly called actors) and an enumeration of the relations (or ties) among such individuals (Kindermann, 2008). The term social network is depicted from Barnes’ work (1954), when he used it to designate the social relationships found in a community in Bremmes, Norway. Since then, the term has been associated to many different types of relations among many different types of individuals. Contemporary networks, unlike local communities, are not only centered on place-based affiliation, but more based on niche cultural affiliations and knowledge communities. These new ways of sharing culture and knowledge have broad implications on the relations between production and consumption and the traditional sources of authority for culture and knowledge. Standards are continuously being reshaped as networks have become the dominant cultural logic (Varnelis, 2008). “Today, network culture succeeds postmodernism. It does so in a more subtle way. No new ‘ism‘ has emerged: that would lay claim to the familiar territory of manifestos, symposia, definite museum exhibits, and so on” (Varnelis, 2008, p. 149). As it happens in other spheres, universities are made of networked actors1 and, thus, the cultures that emerge are varied.

In this networked society, the creation and production of knowledge and expertise rises the likelihood that current knowledge will be retained and multiplied in new knowledge and practices. Recent educational studies stressed the importance of strong social networks among teachers for the spread and depth of policy, reform, innovation and change implementation (Coburn and Russel, 2008; Moolenar, Daly and Sleegers, forthcoming; Penuel, Frank and Krause, 2007,Brown and Duguid,2000; Chiffoleau, 2005; Carre et al., 1989).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge: A fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, expert insight, and grounded intuition that provides an environment and framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the mind of the knowers. In organizations it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories, but also in organizational routines, practices and norms (Gamble and Blackwell, 2001 AU85: The in-text citation "Gamble and Blackwell, 2001" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Networks Epistemics: Deals with the relationship between social structures of personal knowledge networks and the epistemic choices individuals make regarding the types of knowledge they privilege. Epistemic authority relies upon the deliverance of experiences provided by the knowledge Networks in which researchers manifest in epistemic states that occur inside network ties.

Social Networks: Channels and/or conduits of information and knowledge. SN research concentrates mainly on 2 types of social networks that reflect different contents or resources flowing through ties. Instrumental social networks are conduits for the circulation of information and resources. These are the most studied. Then there are the expressive networks reflect patterns of more affect-laden relationships. By focusing on epistemics, we also consider meaning, social and personal context, offering the theoretical and methodological lenses through which SNT and sociology tries to answer questions related to the creation and epistemic authority of knowledge, in our case in higher education.

Knowledge Networks: Usually knowledge network is the term given to different types of team or social networks and communities that are recognized to add significant value to the creation, dissemination and application of knowledge. In the scope of our research on processes of knowledge creation is a conceptual and structural device that reflects how individuals deal with problems, situations, and make sense of phenomena; they are the epistemic conduits by which circulates the know-how (and know-why) that individuals call on to accomplish their work.

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