The structure of the process of tacit knowing
Tacit knowing builds upon the two dimensions, the tacit and the focal dimensions (Polanyi, 1966), and the relationships between the two knowing activities. Figure 9.1 presents Rolf’s (1995, p. 67) view of the topic and emphasises the tacit dimension as a basis in expert action. As Figure 9.1 shows, tacit knowledge is made of traditional (concepts and theories), material, and situational cues that guide observations and actions. During the process, the experts’ perceptions connect their situational cues to concepts familiar through professional tradition, and the integrations are guided by the purposes of professional actions. Together, the elements work like an invisible instrument or tool that purposefully but silently guides experts’ process-like knowing and action (Rolf, 1995).
FIGURE 9.1 Structure of tacit knowing according to Polanyi (Rolf, 1995, p. 67; Toom, 2008, p. 49). Printed with permission. Copyright Faculty' of Educational Sciences, University'of Helsinki, Finland
As Rolf (1995) notes, Polanyi’s understanding of the tacit dimensions of knowing and action comes close to the ways experts use information and tools in their professional action. Also, the ways experts choose and justify their knowledge and actions are connected to their value-based decisions in particular situations (Rolf, 1995, p. 70). It is worth noting that Polanyi’s strong emphasis on the personal - in the fonn of nomas, habits, and routines — largely arises from professional traditions, through which it is mediated into individual experts’ actions. We also highlight the intentional nature of tacit knowing - from perceptions to meanings and understandings - as it moves from situational cues through tradition-laden theories into action.
When Rolf’s understanding of the process of tacit pedagogical knowing is brought into the educational context, we can see a strong resemblance to van Manen’s (1991b) view on teacher’s pedagogical understanding. Pedagogical understanding is a complex skill and underlines a teacher’s sensitive listening and observation, and it includes both reflective and interactive elements. Its core characteristic is the ability to see situational cues in students’ actions during teaching, and besides immediate demands it also strecthes over momentary' reflective needs. Pedagogical understanding is realised through pedagogical tact: a disposition to act in ways that maintain good and workable relations with others. Thus, pedagogical understanding and tact and tacit knowing are different perspectives to the same phenomenon (van Manen, 1991b). Furthermore, excercising this tact (van Manen, 1991a, 1991b, 1995) comes close to tacit knowing. In order to handle interactive situations successfully, an expert needs knowledge and skills to perceive specific situations in detail, understand their meaning from multiple points of view, and know how to act - or not to act - in relation to consquences (see Chapter 3). The process clearly has similar characteristics with Polanyi’s tacit knowing and action. Van Manen (1991a, 1991b, 1995) also reminds us that the (reflection and action) phases are closely connected and can be seen as an integrated whole where multiple perspectives and emotions actually build up tactfulness (Kallio, 2011).
The expertise both in Polanyi’s tacit knowing and in van Manen’s pedagogical understanding share many common features. Their essential core is the purposeful professional action that is guided by both situational cues and more sustained elements of expert knowledge. Tacit pedagogical knowing, in turn, emphasises professional knowledge and skilful action, and can be explicated. Thus, it is comparable to the concept of competence elaborated mentioned earlier in the chapter.
Discussion: the relationship between tacit knowledge and expertise
As we conclude the chapter, we want to pay attention to the core elements of tacit knowledge among experts when tacit knowing is built up by the dimensions of expertise and by the nature of tacit professional knowledge in practice (see Figure 9.2). We have tried to show how expert tacit knowledge has both individual and collective characteristics that are tighly connected to each other and to expert contexts and cultures. Also, the product and the process of tacit knowledge can be theoretically and conceptually separated from each other even though these two dimensions work inseparately together in practice.
When we think of experts’ tacit knowledge to be individual and as collective phenomena, we should remind ourselves that collective practices in communities (also) emerge in individuals, much like skilful individual action contributes positively to collective action. Recent research on expertise (Hakkarainen & Paavola, 2008) emphasizes the collective and social characteristics of expertise. It has strong links with socio-cultural theories (Hatano & Oura, 2003; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998) which underline the fact that intelligent (and skilful) action cannot be executed neither understood without close connections to its social and cultural contexts.
We have emphasised how tacit knowing is a key element in well-functioning expert interactions and work processes. An expert’s tacit knowledge closely refers to implicit knowledge elements underlying action, such as personal and collective beliefs, attitudes, and values. While these knowledge processes are conscious makes articulation of tacit knowledge difficult. Expert tacit knowing appears only in competent actions where object-oriented moves, both individual and collective, are realised (Hakkarainen & Paavola, 2008; Paavola & Hakkarainen, 2005). Due to their complexities, it is often possible to articulate the process of knowing only afterwards. As Figure 9.2 shows, the product and process aspects of tacit knowing are reciprocal: while
FIGURE 9.2 Elaboration of tacit knowledge in terms of expertise and nature of knowledge (cf. Toom, 2008, p. 54). Printed with permission. Copyright The Finnish Lifelong Learning Foundation, Helsinki, Finland
customary habits and practices are influencing skilful expertise, also new ways of doing and understanding are being developed and constantly adopted in the experts’ matrix.
The essential question is then: how are tacit knowledge and knowing intertwined in the construction of expertise? The elaborated aspects of tacit knowledge is closely linked to the research on collective and networked expertise (Sawyer, 2007), where expertise is not only an individual characteristic, but rather it is constructed in interactions between individuals and communities (see also Chapter 7). Expert communities have their unique cultures and practices, on which they rest and function (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998). Expertise is realised through participation in collective knowledge creation processes and the construction of shared practices (Hakkarainen & Paavola, 2008). In networked expertise, individuals’ actions promote the functioning of the whole community and vice versa (Tynjala, Valimaa, & Saga, 2003). Thus, the group of experts can survive, or even grow, as they tackle challenges that any individual expert could not solve alone. Within the shared knowledge reserve, experts have their own areas of expertise which they can develop utilising the community’s knowledge reserve. In well-functioning expert communities, professionals have shared abilities to solve new and demanding challenges (John-Steiner, 2000; Sawyer, 2007), in which collective tacit knowledge plays a central role as experts can employ networks and thus exceed their individual capabilities. This necessitates well-functioning social relationships between experts, which makes it possible for everybody to explain and understand the functioning of their expert community (Elliot & Pedler, 2018; Tynjala, Nuutinen, Etelapelto, Kir-jonen, & Remes, 1997).
Finally, our analytical elaboration of tacit knowledge and knowing leads us to bring together various definitions from different perspectives in order to disperse the ambiguity and vagueness around the concept and practice of tacit knowledge and knowing. The analysis encourages us to ask if we are in danger of losing some essential features contained in the tacit knowing of experts, and in expert networks? These features include factors such as affectivity, spontaneity, and interactivity. And if something essential is lost, then can the phenomenon be found again only in authentic contexts such as: in master-apprentice relationships, collective problem solving situations, or in real-life professional interactions?