Role of knowledge and information in universities

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This report explores into the role of knowledge and information in making University students abreast with the changes in all aspects of life. Indeed, knowledge is the cornerstone of any society which is blossoming. Knowledge, as a concept of philosophy, is defined as a "justified true belief" (Anderson, M, 1989). In this case therefore, for knowledge to be gained there must be three basic tenets: belief, truth, and justification. This concept of knowledge has often been used by people to mean "know". In this case therefore, Knowledge and information are important vehicles through which University students are given the ability to be lifelong learners, critical thinkers and flexible in their approach to various issues in the society. It is therefore important for University students to be equipped with knowledge and information if they have to effectively compete in the world with ever-changing technological and scientific innovations and inventions.

2.0 Introduction:

2.1 Statement of purpose and scope.

The improvements in the academic realm in terms of knowledge dissemination have led to the competition of various participants in Universities. The philosophical literature which has manifested itself in Universities during the past decade is one of the indications of a rapidly changing world. This paper will address the questions which include: What is knowledge? How is knowledge acquired? .How do people know? How do people know that they know? What is the role of information in acquiring knowledge? What is the role of knowledge and information to University students? In order to address the above questions, various theories of knowledge and their proponents will be discussed and how their theories have shaped the knowledge acquisition and dissemination over the years (Anderson, 1989).

2.2 Back ground

Knowledge and information are the most important components for successful University students. In the University, where students are encouraged and trained to be searchers of knowledge, they use information to arrive at this objective. As a matter of fact, information technology has played an instrumental role in enhancing knowledge to be shared among different students of the world (Borko, 1996). According to Plato's theory of knowledge (Epistemology), true knowledge captures the abstract, general, archetypes, eternal forms of knowledge and their relationships.

Usually, students Join a University to gain knowledge and expect that that knowledge will enable them get employment, solve the various problem they face in life and generally to have a wider view point of life.

2.3 Executive summary

This paper establishes the importance of knowledge in the context of University students. It defines knowledge and theories which have been put forward by various philosophers to describe knowledge. It also gives the application of knowledge in enabling the students to be critical thinkers and to achieve lifelong learners by equipping them with the necessary facets for growth in academics.

3.0 Literature review

Robert Maynard Hutchins asserts that the main purpose of education is to train the young to edify themselves throughout their lives. Furthermore, Albert Einstein suggested that it is the ultimate art of the teacher to arouse joy in ingenious expression and knowledge (Borko, 1996). It is from these premises that University students should seek ways of acquiring knowledge and using it as a vessel to take them to greater heights in making them lifelong learners, critical thinkers and flexible in their view points.

Adlai E. Stevenson Jr, in his speech at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, on the October 8, 1952 said that the free mind is not a barking dog, to be tethered on a ten-foot chain. He also asserted that, if we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us.

4.0 Nature of knowledge

There are two main types of knowledge. These include knowledge by representation also known as propositional knowledge, knowledge by acquaintances, and know-how (Carter, 1990). In this case therefore, University students should aim to gain knowledge through one of the above types of knowledge or through a multiple of them. As stated earlier, knowledge has three main components.

Firstly, for one to claim that he/she knows something, they have to belief that they know what the claim to know. It also implies that any cognitive content that is held should be true. For instance the believe that the sky is blue is true. On the other hand, to know something, it must be true to the extent of the facts or a real imagined thing. Furthermore, for one to claim that he/she has knowledge, he/she should be able to give grounds or sufficient evidence to support that claim. Through these components, University students are given a broad view of knowledge and to appreciate various sources of knowledge.

Diagram 1

4.1 Theories of knowledge

Knowledge as stated earlier is a broad discipline of philosophy. The study of knowledge is known as epistemology (Morton, 2002). More importantly, various proponents have put forward their ideas to explain this concept. These philosophers include Aristotle, Plato, Rene Descartes, Robert Nozick, B. K. Matilal, B K Matilal, Edmund Gettier, and Bertrand Russell.

To understand deeply the concept of knowledge, it is worth to consider the theories that have been put forward to address the question highlighted earlier. These theories are grouped into three. These include rationalism, Empiricism, and fusions of Rationalism and Empiricism.Rationaists consider knowledge as primarily acquired by a priori process .Priori is knowledge which is independent of the experience arrived at beforehand, while others believe that it can be gained through a posteriori (Clark, 1986). This implies that knowledge known by experience arrived at afterwards.

Empiricism on the other hand generally emphasizes the role of experience, particularly the five common senses. In the Universities, therefore, students should acquire knowledge through interacting with the surrounding through field work, practicals (Calderhead, 1986).This will not only lead to retention of the content but will also give students an opportunity to experiment and handle the issues in question first hand.

Plato's theory of knowledge lays emphasis on sense perception. This perception can be impressive or genuine. He therefore believes that knowledge is acquired through the recollection of what the soul already knows (Morton, 2002). He further maintains that unless one knows something, enquiry is well-nigh impossible. University students should, as a matter of fact, search first for knowledge if they have to enquire about what exists in nature.

4.2 What do people know?

Skepticism is an area of knowledge which answers the question of whether certain knowledge is possible. For instance "one can not move to point B unless point A has been established with absolute certainty" (Carter, 1990). Skeptics therefore argue that believing something does not automatically substantiate an affirmation of knowledge of it. Skepticism opposes foundationalism, which asserts that there have to be some basic viewpoints which are vindicated without reference to others (Brophy, 991).However, in cases, people encounter with programmed knowledge (P) and the ability to meticulously (Q) ascertain the worth of that knowledge in relation to a given set of state of affairs. The learning process between Q and P gives L as the result as shown in Figure 1 below:

Diagram 2

4.3 Application of knowledge

4.3.1 Knowledge and Mathematics

Mathematics being the study of magnitude, configuration, and space seeks out patterns to create new inferences and establish the truth by meticulous reasoning from properly chosen truism and definitions. "Mathematics is used all over the world as an essential tool in various fields including engineering,medicine,natural science, social sciences, and applied mathematics" (Calderhead, 1986). These applications are of prime importance to university students when choosing their careers.

4.3.2 Knowledge and logic

Logic, the study of reasoning was established by Aristotle. This concept is often used in various intellectual activities. It critically analyses general forms which arguments take. These arguments can be valid or fallacious .This concept helps the students to be critical in their thinking. As a matter of fact, logic is "a tool for distinguishing between true or false" (Harris, 1970). It is divided into inductive reasoning which implies drawing of general conclusions from the general examples and deductive reasoning which draws from definitions. This therefore enables the University students to be engaged in sound arguments and arrive at conclusions on the basis of facts and justification.

5.0 Primary research

The research carried out in Harvard's Graduate school of Arts and Sciences shows that knowledge in various fields have enabled students to apply it in the making of models like probability models and applied statistical scientific investigations. This department offers courses which lead to PhD and masters degrees. Students are encouraged to attend seminars to be abreast with current problems in empirical research. Furthermore, all PhD students are expected to teach during the training period to share their knowledge, skills and expertise with other students (Calderhead, 1986).

6.0 Conclusion

In conclusion, the concept of knowledge is the most important ingredient in preparing University students to take up responsibilities of nation building and personal survival. With knowledge, University graduates will be well adapted to deal with socio-economic, political and environmental handicaps. This will ultimately lead to the growth of the economy, hence, improved standards of living

7.0 Recommendations

Since epistemology is an important field of study in equipping both the students and the general society, it should be taught at all levels of education. This will enable the learners to apply the principles of knowledge to in their day-day activities. In order to achieve this, students should be exposed to various sources of knowledge especially through the use of internet and literature found in libraries.

8.0 List of recommendations

For university students:

Become proactive in searching for knowledge

Be motivated to obtain knowledge through various sources

Use the knowledge acquired in the University to take responsibilities

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