I’ve been working on a small section of our paper on the monitoring and evaluation of KM (see Ewen’s earlier blog) and wanted to share some emerging ideas. The section is attempting to communicate IKMs epistemological perspective by introducing two dimensions (originally described by Chris Mowles in his comments on Ewen’s blog): the perspective of enquiry and the perspective of knowledge held by the evaluator (monitor). This is fairly abstract at the moment but do let me know if this is (1) accurate (I’m not a philosopher or even a social scientist) and (2) useful…
Assessing the value of KM requires the evaluator (or monitor) to take a particular perspective on how they will enquire into the reality they are confronted with. This means both their methods of enquiry and their approach to knowledge and learning. Their perspective is usually inherent and will depend on their worldview, namely their ontology (understanding of reality), epistemology (how this reality is ‘known’) and their ethic or moral purpose (Mowles).
In terms of methods; put simplistically, the evaluator identifies themselves on a spectrum with positivists at one end and constructionists at the other. Positivists are realists, they assume that ‘the reality’ exists and they can know and represent this reality accurately by taking measurements using natural science methods. Constructionists, on the other hand, are interpretivists, who believe that reality is relative and observers constructs their own interpretation and make meaning together, and are therefore more interested in understanding perspectives of reality.
We can imagine a similar spectrum that describes the various approaches to knowledge and learning that the evaluator could take. At one end we have cognitivists who believe the mind is like a computer or information processor where knowledge is stored in a mental schema and learning is defined as a change in this schema. At the other end we have social learning theorists who understand learning to be a social process that arises between people at a given time in a given context.
Putting these two scales together, we can imagine a matrix that describes the different methodological paradigms that exist in the M&E of KM. We take a constructionist, social learning approach.