Why I hate “knowledge sharing”!!

In recent years, I’ve witnessed the term “knowledge sharing” being used in educational institutions. At numerous schools and universities I have been invited to, required to attend, and even facilitated “knowledge sharing” sessions.

Having grown to detest this term, I thought it was about time to explain my feelings in a blog post. Be warned though, I am not attempting to share with you!! As this is not a dialogue, it’s really up to you to construct knowledge by reference to my input and your schema.

What’s so bad about sharing?

Firstly, before you think of me as a mean-spirited fellow, I’m not averse to sharing per se. I would quite happily share with you my last piece of chocolate cake, or other food, or even the cold that I have at the moment. It’s the use of the term “knowledge sharing” in particular that gets my goat.

Why does this term annoy me?

Partly, it’s the euphemistic nature. If I’m asked to attend a briefing, a meeting or a seminar then I’m fine. Those terms are emotionally neutral to me. However, a “sharing session” sounds so horribly sweet. How adorable that someone is willing to share!! Gag! As far as I’m concerned attending such a session is still a work task. Any attempt to make the event sound more attractive by giving it a pleasant name actually makes me feel worse.

Where did the term “knowledge sharing” originate?

I believe it’s from the Business discipline of Knowledge Management which is an approach to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of company personnel, and then hopefully whole organisations. If you’re interested in reading more about it, one of the popular writers about knowledge sharing and management is David Gurteen. See http://www.gurteen.com/gurteen/gurteen.nsf/id/ksculture

Why has it gained such popularity in the education arena?

It has probably done so because, rightly or wrongly, many educational establishments have adopted quasi-business models of practice. A vocabulary set has accompanied these models – such terms as “performance management” and “knowledge sharing”.  Unfortunately, this term has been adopted unquestioningly by many educators who, through their own studies of learning theory, should know better.

What characterises a “knowledge sharing” session?

In my experience nothing much, really. I imagine Knowledge Management theorists envisage something more like an interplay of ideas between professionals, informing but also encouraging each other to think from multiple perspectives and thereby gain valuable insights and a more holistic approach to their work. Which would be nice. Unfortunately, in my experience, sharing sessions in schools and colleges are more like briefings or lectures than seminars, with little in the way of interaction, just passive listening to the person invited to “share”.

Why is it inappropriate to use the term “knowledge sharing” in an educational setting?

The assumption by someone coining the term “knowledge sharing” must be that knowledge is something objectively real that can be passed intact and unchanged from one person to another. During the twentieth century, thanks to researchers such as Dewey, Montessori, Vygotsky and Piaget and supported by more recent findings in neuroscience, the idea that knowledge acquisition results from straightforward transmission from one human to another is passé.  “Sharing” is simply the wrong metaphor. Knowledge is not given or received; people construct their own meanings.

Thanks for listening to my rant!

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