The Social Distribution of Knowledge: The Case of 'Research by Project'

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The link between higher education, especially post-graduate research programs, and the knowledge economy has been recognised. In more recent times there has also been a blurring of the lines between pure and applied research, research and practice and the process of knowledge production. The focus on applied and contextualized knowledge production is partly due to an increasing number of post graduate candidates who want to research issues related to their professional field or work situations. While it is legitimate to promote the economic benefits of knowledge production it is essential for practitioners in the social sciences to question how any new knowledge is socially distributed and who are the beneficiaries. Universities have developed a range of post graduate programs in response to this new environment. RMIT University’s Research By Project is based on notions of practical knowledge (Gibbons et al., 1994; Jarvis, 1999; Polanyi, 1958) and the application of this knowledge in a particular context. By Project has three aims: a more knowledgeable and skilled practitioner; a contribution to professional and scholarly knowledge; and a change in practice or body of work. The production of knowledge that is then used to improve local outcomes sounds alluring. However achieving this loft goal is challenging. Using examples from Indonesia and Australia, this paper explores the challenges of undertaking workplace based post graduate research in the context of education. Moreover it examines the social distribution of the knowledge produced from this research.


Keywords: Education, Knowledge, Improving Local Practice
Stream: Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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David Hodges

Program Co-Ordinator, School of Management, RMIT University
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr David Hodges is a senior lecturer within RMIT’s School of Management with particular expertise in educational leadership and management. Since 2001 he has been a supervisor in the Research By-Project Program. For the past four years he has supervised three projects in the Indonesian Ministry of National education. These projects are intended to improve planning and co-ordination, quality and local participation. All are occurring in the context of decentralisation. He has conducted strategic management workshops with junior secondary school leaders from MONE and carried out advisory assignments in schools, provincial and district offices in Bekasi, Tangerang, Yogyakarta, Bali and Lombok in association with the By-Project Program. In Australia he has worked with private, government corporations and with the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Education.

Ref: I08P0635