Professional Work and Knowledge

  • Lina MarkauskaiteEmail author
  • Peter Goodyear
Part of the Springer International Handbooks of Education book series (SIHE)


This chapter provides an overview of some influential perspectives on the relationships between professional work and professional knowledge. We build upon a number of recent developments in theories of knowledge, skill, expertise, capability and action to help reframe understandings of professional knowledge as culturally and socially situated and materially grounded. We draw on ideas from cognitive ecology and developmental psychology to argue that effective professional action often depends upon tools and resources that come to hand in the workplace – it is the accomplishment of an “extended mind”. We also use recent research on the active nature of perception to argue that professional expertise is often highly dependent on “conceptual perception” and “sensory intelligence”. We suggest that employers and providers of professional education, and quite possibly students themselves, expect too much from the kinds of knowledge that can most readily be acquired in formal education settings: explicit, conceptual and principles-based knowledge. When employers comment negatively on the sharp contrast between the practical capabilities of new graduates and the capabilities of their more experienced workers, part of what they are noticing is – we argue – emergent from, and constitutively entangled with, the workplace setting. A richer understanding of how effective and innovative professional practitioners do what they do is needed, to make progress in the design and evaluation of professional education programs.


Professional knowledge and knowing Professional work Professional education Professional vision Epistemic fluency Extended mind Perception-action Grounded cognition Epistemic environments 


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Education and Social WorkUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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