Wednesday, November 16, 2016

collaboration and knowledge...

One of the tasks in the wood shop that I have students do together is drilling holes in the center of wooden disks to make wheels. The point, of course is that collaboration with others is an essential skill. It also makes sense that students communicate their skills with each other in both tacit and not-tacit means.

Tacit knowledge consists of those things that we know instinctively or that have been learned or communicated to us or through us by example, experience or observation without having ever been stated or communicated in a purely academic or intellectualized form.
As Michael Polanyi wrote in The Tacit Dimension, we should start from the fact that ‘we can know more than we can tell‘. He termed this pre-logical phase of knowing as ‘tacit knowledge’. Tacit knowledge comprises a range of conceptual and sensory information and images that can be brought to bear in an attempt to make sense of something (see Hodgkin 1991). Many bits of tacit knowledge can be brought together to help form a new model or theory. This inevitably led him to explore connoisseurship and the process of discovery (rather than with the validation or refutation of theories and models – in contrast with Popper, for example).—
In educational sloyd one was to proceed from the known to the unknown, but at that time, most children started with a similar tacit knowledge. Most children in Sweden at the time were at least familiar with the use of a knife. Even if they had not whittled wood on their own, they would have at least cut their own meat, or helped in various forms of chores that required the use of sharp instruments. These days, kids are all over the place even within a single age group, in that many parents do not trust their children to use tools, and they will not have gained the tacit knowledge that comes from having done so.

Exploring the sloyd precept of moving from the known to the unknown is made rather complex when and if you consider that much of what a child knows cannot be easily shared without them being in a position to actually do real things.

Teaming children to work together allows them to use tacit knowledge, but also converts tacit knowledge into forms that can be verbally shared. When a child becomes a teacher for other children, what had been tacit, becomes reflective knowledge, and thus gains greater significance and power.

Make, fix, create, and provide others the opportunity to learn likewise.


  1. Doug. You are my woodworking spirit guide! I'd like to build one of your kids workbenches but the link in the fine woodworking article is dead. Can you direct me to the plans for that little bench?

  2. You can find the plans for the bench using this link: