Learning, Creating, and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations

By Joseph D. Novak | Go to book overview
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6
The Nature of Knowledge and How Humans Create Knowledge

THE NATURE AND SOURCES OF KNOWLEDGE

That humans learn is self-evident. It is also self-evident that humans organize and communicate knowledge to one another. What is not obvious is the origin of knowledge. Where does knowledge come from? This has been a question pondered by some of the best minds for centuries. Most of the great philosophers throughout history have spoken and written on this question.

It is not my purpose to review the long history of philosophical ideas about the nature of knowledge and knowing, but it is necessary to deal with some of the ideas that have been dominant in the past 300 years because they continue to influence teaching, learning, schools, businesses, and society today. First, however, I try to make clear the philosophical ideas that now guide our work and my answer to the question: Where does knowledge come from? The branch of philosophy that deals with the structure and origins of knowledge is called epistemology, and I shall try to make clear my epistemological ideas.

All knowledge is comprised of concepts and propositions, including concepts and propositions that deal with learning strategies and methods of conducting inquiries and also including the affective dimension of experience associated with those concepts and propositions. Meaningful learning underlies the constructive integration of thinking, feeling, and acting that occurs in human learning and in new knowledge construction. This interplay is unique to human beings and hence I choose to label it human constructivism ( Novak, 1993). Human constructivism is a label I see as appropriate both for the way in which humans learn their usable

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