"The whole movement of life is learning" (Krishnamurti). "To be an act of knowing, then, the adult literacy process must engage the learners in the constant problematizing of their existential situations" (Freire). "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free" (Douglass). "I can learn anything I have the desire to learn" (White, S.G.).

Saturday, June 14, 2014

How Do You Say Episteme and Phronesis? Gesundheit? Thank you!

Synthesized Knowledge: Episteme and Phronesis...are the intertwined faculties...

I’ve been thinking for a few days (subconsciously) about what to write about for my first blog post for our TEDU 681 class. Mostly, I’ve been thinking about our first assignment, the DG on episteme and phronetic ways of learning. Wondering if I got it right in my answers and then wondering:  Why am I wondering? I believe I understand the terms and I believe that how we learn as students (adult learners) and the steps in how we teach, as educators have been illustrated in the article provided by Dr. M (a.k.a “Bill”).

If I understood what I read, then episteme describes the study of learning (research methods) for better understanding and phronetic is the application of that gained insight, understanding, or knowledge to facilitate the lesson or learning.

(I agree with Lisa – my spell- checker, does not like these terms – “phronetic” especially -  and causes me to wonder, if I am using it correctly. If I am not, then does that mean I don’t understand the term and what it represents?  It’s a vicious circle of doubt every time that red line appears. It’s almost as though Word knows, that I am not 100% in my argument, before I even begin.)

In our class, I feel that we are about to begin a journey of learning, guided with a slight hand by Dr. M on the best way to create a study of understanding (episteme) so that we can implement a plan of phronetic study to arrive at a finished body of work with our projects.  *See I’ve used the terms
and I think I got it right, yet they are so unfamiliar that I am uncomfortable and immediately begin to use mental examples of what I mean to reassure myself. I do feel that these two practices of achieving increased proficiency in adult literacy with language learners are interconnected.  Can one exist without the other? I feel that an argument can be made for yes they can. But why is it necessary to have one system of belief or practice that takes precedence over the other? Why not embrace the duality of the two when used together to achieve higher reading/literacy proficiency with your learner?

An example of this can be found in John Strucker’s article, What Silent Reading Tests Alone Can’t Tell You. In Strucker’s article, the utilization of diagnostic assessments to improve how instructors taught and how students learned was a composite of episteme study and phronetic practice to facilitate the end result.

For the adult learner that wants to improve their literacy, how they get there is as important as achieving their goals. For the instructor the methodology used to bring their student(s) along, should showcase the same commitment and care to facilitate their learner(s) needs.   How they get there with their learner(s), should be, by any means necessary.


  1. You say we are on a journey. Every journey has a few road blocks, but that is when the learning occurs I suppose, so here we are. I think the roadblock I hit this week was phronetic. (Another that Microsoft doesn't like), my judgment got skewered by my need to pin everything down to an exact science. You hit it right on the head when you state that because we are uncomfortable we immediately look for mental pictures. So I am happy with the mental image you create of our journey, with Dr. M as our guide, with our ultimate goal of improving the literacy of our learners, helping them to achieve their goals - to enhance a life.

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  3. JG - I also wonder what the heck I was thinking when I did the discussion guide. I know I botched up episteme, phronesis, and epistemology. Kinds of knowledge and ways of knowing. Hmmm . Right now my way of knowing is in a state of ambivalence.

    I saw Strucker's and Alamprese's reserach as episteme approach because the data that was created can be generalized and used across contexts. I think both of these studies added a lot of knowledge to the field, although I have some thoughts about the way language learners were included. I think the larger issue is that so much adult literacy research, according to "Two Perspectives," is episteme approach. Why does our society want concrete answers and 'proof' ? Why is episteme accepted as 'proof' and 'truth' when it is no more true or 'real' than phronesis?

  4. Again, LOVELY dialogue you guys!! JG, you are quite right when you infer that episteme (a la Strucker) can also be critical (we can use quantitative data to undermine an injustice practice (I shall argue that Alamprese's epistem-based study is wonderfully critical. But I would locate both Strucker and Alampres's research as fundamentally episteme- not phronesis-based. Think of episteme "scientific method" that isolates variables and tests them out to see how they correlate with each other or can be used to create an intervention and then measure its effect size statistically. Phronesis studies are typically anthropological and eschew the process of "isolating variables." On the other hand, both Strucker and Alamprese step back and do some phronensis work when the discuss the implications of their study, but again, their study designs were episteme at its best!


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this post. Diverse opinions are welcomed.