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Editorial for JVET special issue on knowledge and expertise
Perspectives on the nature of vocational knowledge and expertise are influential in shaping Vocational Education and Training (VET) systems and programmes in different societies and for different occupations, and reflect contrasting philosophies of the purpose of VET and its relationship to other forms of education. Debates centre around the role of knowledge derived from academic disciplines, the extent to which situated knowledge and practical understanding is key to the development of expertise, and epistemological questions about the relationship between forms of know-that and know-how (see Winch 2010). On the one hand, a creativity-focused ‘epistemology of the hand’ (Brinkmann and Tanggaard 2010) could be seen to imply that vocational expertise has little to do with forms of systematically produced disciplinary knowledge, which could be castigated as ‘inert’ and ‘irrelevant’ to much vocational practice. On the other hand, some commentators have emphasised the role of specialised disciplinary knowledge in shaping expertise in many occupations (Young and Muller 2014) and argued that systematically organised knowledge is indispensable for the making of sound judgements in practice (Winch 2010; Shalem 2014). The advantage of such an approach, one might argue, is that it can foreground knowledge that been ‘tried and tested’ in multiple contexts and held to stringent criteria for inclusion in the occupational knowledge base. The new practitioner can thus be offered a foundation of vocational knowledge that rests on the combined expertise of the wider community of practitioners.