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Knowing and learning: from Hirst to Ofsted

Davis, Andrew John

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Hirst always highlighted knowledge when reflecting on the school curriculum. He replaced his early focus on liberal education, the development of mind and theoretical knowledge by emphasizing the practical and practices as a curriculum starting point and for the framing of educational aims. In this paper I explore links between Hirst’s philosophical treatment of knowledge and some currently contested aspects of UK government education policies. I also note some ways in which his work relates to selected present-day debates in philosophy of education. Examples of UK government policy will include Ofsted’s definition of learning as a ‘change in long-term memory’ and the ways in which they place ‘logical sequencing’ at the heart of teaching, learning, and curriculum. Their learning definition treats knowledge as an individual asset rather than something about individuals as embedded in the social world of practices, a perspective more in keeping with Hirst’s later views. The critique of individualistic notions of knowledge and learning includes some explorations of how learners move into the ‘space of reasons’. Where I draw attention to relationships between Hirst’s thought and contemporary philosophy of education debates, I do not always draw any definite conclusions.


Davis, A. J. (2023). Knowing and learning: from Hirst to Ofsted. Journal of Philosophy of Education, Article qhad002.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 30, 2022
Online Publication Date Jan 12, 2023
Publication Date 2023
Deposit Date May 9, 2023
Publicly Available Date May 10, 2023
Journal Journal of Philosophy of Education
Print ISSN 0309-8249
Electronic ISSN 1467-9752
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Article Number qhad002
Public URL


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