About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Valuating expertise

Ken Allen had an interesting post recently about expertise . I have become very interested in expertise as its definition within a group seems to be a key element in collaborative writing and knowledge creation.

Specifically, how "expertise" is defined varies among group members based on their professional development, the politics of the organization and department, and their own epistemology (often a result of schooling, culture, and reference groups).

The problem is that defining expertise is often implicit. As a result, when interacting with others, decision makers will impose their own definition of expertise if they don't first interact with those who will be impacted by their decision. If a decision maker's definition of expertise is different than the stakeholders, there will be discontent and the appearance that the decision maker is inept (after all, s/he should not make "stupid" decisions based on "false" data).

This is especially true when there are multi-generations. Some of the older expertise may be undervalued by younger stakeholders and some of the younger expertise may be undervalued by older stakeholders. Rather than merging the expertise, taking out the best for the situation, one or the other will be discounted.

This recently happened to me (and it is not the first time). As an expert on instructional technology, with a deep level of experience in multiple contexts, you would think that a school would reach out to have my input on instructional technology and its instructional design. Instead, my daughter worked on a distance learning component of her school (high school level) yesterday, experiencing a number of factors that are common mistakes made by first time distance learning instructional design. As I mentioned before, this is not the first school to discount my expertise because I am a parent (you wouldn't understand, you only have college level experience, you're a parent...not a teacher).

I am disappointed because I expected more from the school as it is an alternative school. However, upon reflection I realized that there are different definitions of expertise working here and that admitting a lack of expertise is a difficult as redefining "expertise" and "knowledge". There needs to be tools, especially in the current "objective" standardized educational system the US has been moving to, to allow for new ideas, new ways of doing things, but also the maintenance of old ideas and ways of doing things that may still work in different situations. One advantage of the current technology is that there is a more permanent record of not only new ideas, but old ideas as well. I need only peruse my blog as I develop my syllabus for next semester and see what worked, what didn't, and what situations I might need to deal with next semester.

I am especially concerned with the current recession, as the 50+ workers are being laid off, that some of the time tested ways of doing business will be thrown out (the good with the bad) and the same mistakes will be made (and covered up). Let's hope that the amount of expertise that is out there will be used rather than wasted.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

I think there is a distinction between what may be called expertise, and what is commonly accepted as expert. They are not the same thing.

Catchya later

V Yonkers said...

Good point. However, often people designate an "expert" as someone who has expertise in knowledge identified by those in power positions as being important.

For example, many farmers have expertise in their patch of land or farming techniques for their product. However, not all farmers are considered experts, especially if they have difficulty expressing their knowledge.

So does expressing a person's knowledge a part of being an "expert"? Would an apple farmer be considered and expert by a corn farmer?

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia.

I think that an expert (and I mean a true expert, not someone with good experience and expertise in one narrow area) is someone who has a breadth and depth of knowledge of a subject or discipline.

Though these people tend to be thinner on the ground than they used to be (for reasons to do with the rate of advancement of knowledge) they still exist.

I can cite examples in commonly understood fields, such as journalism or media interviewing. There is a raft of interviewers, worldwide, who are true experts in their field. They also do their homework (before an interview) and in this respect they continue to gain expertise, which contributes to their expertness.

That they know that they have to do their homework is part of their expert property. There is no doubt in my mind that these people are true experts. They can take on many lesser lights who may well be highly experienced in their own field, such as sports interviewers, but are non-the-less not experts in the true sense.

Gladwell's book, Outliers, explains this well.

Catchya later