Trustworthy knowledge

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Following on from my last blog about the usefulness of big R research literacy to systems thinking in practice (and vice versa), this post is about the trustworthiness of ‘knowledge’ produced by research, whether that is the findings or particular recommendations (conclusions) arising from them.

I’ve written before about critiques of knowledge being viewed as a product or ‘thing’ and alternatives offered by different authors.  However, for the sake of this blog, I am not sure how far I will get without treating knowledge as if it is the more formal propositional, explicit knowledge that is presented in written form or in presentations.  So bear with me!

How my systems literacy helps me think about trustworthiness

an explanation does not exist in and of itself – it is a part of a social dynamic between an explainer, an explanation (the form of an explanation) and a listener or reader.

Ison (2017, p.9)

This quote from Ison (2017) is accompanied by a cartoon where one person is saying “This happens because….” and a second person is thinking “I accept this because….”  I think that this is a great way of thinking about the trustworthiness of knowledge – any explanation a practitioner (including practitioners of research) make is evaluated by the listener or reader in order to consider whether it is trustworthy or not. Continue reading

From small ‘r’ research to big ‘R’ research (and back again?)

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In his discussion of an ‘idealised’ Systems Thinking Practitioner, Ison (2017, pp.192-195) makes the case for an underlying emotion of inquiry and curiousity and engaging in what it refers to as small ‘r’ research.  He explains this as “willed and reflexive action, done for a purpose, though the purpose may not be clear initially” (Ison, 2017, p.193).

The case resonates with me, in a world of uncertainty, we can never ‘know’ anything because what we ‘know’ always changes as the real-world flux of events and ideas unfold.  So always inquiring and small ‘r’ researching – and therefore continually learning – seems an appropriate way forward.

Lately, I have been reflecting on this in relation to the use of a research-based capstone module to ‘end’ an MSc in Systems thinking in practice at the Open University and my own experience of subsequently moving on to do a PhD. Continue reading

Open learning and social media – can our future be open squared?

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This is a refreshed version of the post I made on 9 January 2024.  Some content is the same, but I would like to think I have made the overall argument stronger


Weller’s (2014) account of the history of open learning highlights how the free and open source software movement formed the inspiration for creative commons and therefore possibilities for open educational resources.  However, it concerns me that this connection is overlooked when phrases like “open technologies” (Weller, 2014, p.94), “open tools” (Cronin, 2017, p.8) and “open online spaces” (Perryman, 2023, Step 2.13) are used.  In these contexts, the word ‘open’ conveys the idea of being outside of the physical and virtual boundaries of an educational institution, rather than the licensing of the software.

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Learning new concepts

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Recently, my husband had his first bout of COVID-19.  He’d avoided it for a long time but finally got caught out!  Each day, when I asked him how he was feeling he said things like – “I know they said ‘loss of taste’ but I didn’t really get what they meant until now”.  The same things came up for terms like ‘brain fog’ and the feeling of tiredness.  Up until that moment, those terms were simply a list of words.  But he had to experience those symptoms to really understand what the words meant.

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‘Open squared’ – learning the lingo

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Weller’s (2014) account of the history of open learning aligns it with the free and open source software movement.  However, it concerns me that this connection is overlooked when phrases like “open technologies” (Weller, 2014, p.94), “open tools” (Cronin, 2017, p.8) and “open online spaces” (Perryman, 2023, Step 2.13) are used.  In these contexts, the word ‘open’ conveys the idea of being outside of the physical and virtual boundaries of an educational institution, rather than the licensing of the software.  Examples of open educational practices (OEP), such as the use of Twitter [now X] (Weller, 2023), link the practices with Big Tech’s “killer apps” which have been associated with data exploitation and neglect of privacy amongst other abuses (Fowler, 2021).  The main exception to this is blog sites built on WordPress 🙂 .

In addition, resources for educators (for example, Ritter, 2021; Salmon, 2014) ignore ethical considerations in their guides on using social media services for different educational purposes.  The only nod to ethics I have been able to locate is the inclusion of Security and Privacy as the final S in the SECTIONS model designed to help inform the choice of technology (Bates, 2022, section 10.9).

This really troubles me. Do I really have to use Big Tech’s services in order to be an open educational practitioner and open learner?  Should I really expect ‘learners’ to use those services in order to connect with and interact with me?  Do we really need to use the same platforms to socialise with family and friends; educate; and, learn?  Are these spaces actually conducive to learning with all the noisy marketing and monetised posts?

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I’ve just realised an oversight in relation to the end of my last post (Learning in the open).  It’s a bit of a paraphrase, but I concluded that blogging was an activity that I primarily do ‘for me’.  In that moment, I probably alienated my ‘audience’ – potentially made readers feel as if they were being nosey reading my posts!

In those final paragraphs, there was something I overlooked.  If blogging is something I do ‘for me’, then why am I interested in the number of people who have read each blog and the number who ‘Like’ it.  Furthermore, why is it so pleasing when I realise others have republished the material more widely (within the terms of the creative commons license, of course).  And why am I so pleased when someone takes the time to comment.

The point is that ‘for me’ doesn’t take place in isolation.  It’s interdependent with ‘for us’ and ‘for them’ because it is enhanced by feedback.  I like to know if my ideas have reached other people. I like to know if they have found them helpful because I assume that I am not alone in thinking the way I think.  And I like receiving comments/feedback because that can then open up another reflective space for me.

So ‘for me’, ‘for us’ and ‘for them’ and not mutually excusive routes – that choosing one negates the other.  They coexist and depend on each other.  Although online, asynchronous communication may not be the most speedy way of achieving feedback, it is one of them.

PS this isn’t a request for likes and comments, it’s just a train of thought I wanted to get down!

Learning in the open

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For someone who studies and works at a university with ‘open’ in the name, I’ve kind of always assumed that I was therefore involved in open education.  But this is only the case if you interpret ‘open’ in relation to the fact that there are no entry requirements and no selection procedures.

But recently, I have been studying material on ‘open education’ which has opened(!) up my thinking about what I understand open to be.  Now this is a BIG topic with lots of jargon like ‘open pedagogy’ and ‘OER-enabled’ and I can’t cover it all in one post.  Today I want to focus on the ‘openness’ of the artefacts that learners produce as we learn just to see where it takes me.

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What is policy?

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Note: today is 20 July 2023 and I just found this post in my ‘drafts’ folder.  It was written 22 August 2014!  I’ve read it through and it seems that the only thing I didn’t get round to doing was putting on a reference list and sorting out some formatting.  Or, maybe I had some other points I wanted to make – perhaps more detail on policy process and/or health policy because I don’t touch on all the books who I introduce at the beginning.  It’s interesting that at that time I was thinking about doing my PhD in ‘field’ of health in all policies, but now that in the past…..

A few months ago I wrote my Policy Safari post which outlined the reasons for my interest in policy.  The interest has got stronger since then – the more I think about it the more I would like my PhD research to be in the ‘field’ of healthy public policy/health in all policies.   I’ll write a post soon outlining the background to and use of these ‘ideas’, but in order to start to tease apart what they are and how you seek to achieve these ideals, I think you need to start with two contested concepts that underpin them – what is (public) policy? (plus what are the theories about how it is ‘done’?) and what is health? (plus what are the theories about how it is ‘made’/’damaged’?)  As these two concepts are understood in such a multiplicity of ways in isolation then putting them together in phrases such as ‘healthy public policy’ and ‘health in all policies’ is kind of a recipe for complete confusion.

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How do I understand professional practice and practice development?

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I feel as if I have 101 blog titles going around in my head at the moment.  It’s getting hard to know which one to focus on.  But I guess starting somewhere is better than not starting at all.

This blog is actually based on part of my PhD thesis (Wilding, 2021, chapter 3).  The key points are the same but I focus a little more on my story of grappling with ideas that I did to reach the explanation and claims I made there.  It illustrates how my traditions of systems understandings supported the development of a set of ideas about practice and its development.  Hopefully, those familiar with systems thinking ideas and tools will recognise the bricolage of ideas that I draw on – I don’t want to explain or reference them all in detail as this blog would never get written. Continue reading

Introducing situations cleanly

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In Systems Thinking in Practice, we tend to refer to the ‘object’ of our inquiries as ‘situations’.  There are variations on this term such as problematic situations, situations of interest or situations of concern which I have discussed in previous posts such as the ones in this search result.

In everyday situations, we tend to introduce situations with quite a long explanation.  We often talk about how we think the situation came about, what the impact is and so on.  We may even force a certain framing on the situation through phrases like “by saying x I mean y angle, not really z”.  The difficulty I experience when people do this is it can be hard to really understand the focal point of their concern because they are bringing in lots of different angles.  I also think that the person themself may not actually have got to the point where they have actually distilled the focal point of their concern.  When this way of introducing situations is done, it also mixes up the introduction with the start of an analysis or understanding of the situation – an understanding that may have come about without using systems concepts and approaches as epistemic devices. Continue reading