Inquiry-based community engagement

Melissa Pognon just alerted me to an interesting article by David Low, on university-community engagement. It presents a dialogical, or inquiry-based, view of engagement, drawing from communication theory and Perice’s theory of inquiry. Low emphasizes that

we do not ‘transfer’ or ‘transmit’ knowledge between social systems, but, rather, we engage a method that enables the recognition of a shared object of enquiry – its entelechy (Nicholls 2000) (p. 108).

This shared enquiry must not only tolerate dissent or difference, it actually depends on dissent to function at all. Such a view is radically different from the dominant university discourse around topics such as “knowledge transfer,” “public outreach,” or “service learning.”

Low writes,

without a method to nurture and reveal dissent, universities would be unable to even recognise different ways of being in the world, and enquiry would be rendered impossible (Hawes 1999, p. 235) (p. 111).

I find myself drawn initially to 2×2 tables such as the one Low presents in his grid-group, then later becoming frustrated with all that they obscure as well as reveal. But the article as a whole has many useful insights.

References

Hawes, L. (1999). The dialogics of conversation: Power, control, vulnerability. Communication Theory, 9(3), 229–264.

Low, David (2008). University-community engagement: A grid-group analysis. Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement, 1, 107-127.

Nicholls, A. (2000, September). The secularization of revelation from Plato to Freud. Contretemps, 1, 62–70.

Peirce, Charles S. (1877, November). The fixation of belief. Popular Science Monthly, 12, 1-15.

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