Social realism and in-depth learning: Can students build knowledge with an epistemic dimension?

Erik Bratland



A mantra in today's technology-rich schools, with access to the internet and all sorts of information, is that students themselves should produce knowledge. In today's school, characterized by an unholy alliance between neo-liberal forces and constructivism, this requirement will most likely lead to a state in which knowledge is perceived as a form of social construction in a particular setting. This article raises several serious objections to such an approach, which reduces knowledge to knowing, which limits the scope for progression in the subject. This paper argues for a social and realistic alternative, formulated as knowledge building as theory development. Knowledge building as theory development exceeds the subjective doxa by linking knowledge with development of ideas and theories as the essential part of the students' creation of knowledge. Knowledge building as theory development opens up for students to build knowledge with an epistemic dimension, which is a prerequisite for in-depth learning in the school's subjects.


social realism; in-depth learning; specialized knowledge; knowledge building as theory development; knowledge paradox; neoliberal school reforms

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