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The knowledge theories of P.H. Hirst and P.H. Phenix : a comparative study of Hirst's "Forms of knowledge" and Phenix's "Realms of meaning" and their implications for curriculum planning

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Warrillow-Williams, DAN (1983) The knowledge theories of P.H. Hirst and P.H. Phenix : a comparative study of Hirst's "Forms of knowledge" and Phenix's "Realms of meaning" and their implications for curriculum planning. Unspecified thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

Since the early sixties a great controversy has centred in the curriculum world on the so-called 'disciplines thesis' of Philip H. Phenix and Paul H. Hirst. This thesis proposes that all knowledge can be reduced to a small number of logically distinct 'domains' or 'disciplines', and therefore all human meaning and understanding can be examined in terms of these 'forms' or 'realms'.
Hirst contends there are seven or eight logically distinct forms: history, ethics, mathematics, physical science, religion, philosophy, social science and the arts, while Phenix contends there are nine. Phenix's 'realms' are symbolics, empirics, esthetics (sic), synnoetics, ethics and synoptics, six in number, achieved by combining his normative and comprehensive classes of meaning into two rather than five 'realms'.
This theory of knowledge is intended by Hirst to provide a 'bridge' of reason between the human mind and the 'real' world. Phenix intends it to break down the feelings of fragmentation, cynicism, meaninglessness and inadequacy in the face of the surfeit of knowledge confronting the members of modern industrialized communities.
The 'disciplines thesis' Hirst and Phenix put forward though is far from being one about which they are in complete harmonious accord. Hirst is severely critical of several of Phenix's 'realms', particularly symbolics, synnoetics and synoptics.
In trying to 'tidy up' Phenix's theory, Hirst has not reached a height from which his own ideas are above criticism. However, he has certainly clarified many of the central issues regarding the philosophical foundations of the curriculum, and made a powerful case for the continuance of 'liberal education' as an indispensable part of the school curriculum.
The implications for the curriculum of Hirst and Phenix are many. To begin with the ways of knowing contained in the 'forms' or 'realms' should be a vital part of the teaching of all school subjects, whether those subjects are pure 'forms' or 'realms', or 'fields' combining aspects of several of the cognitive domains. In addition careful consideration should be given to logical, developmental, methodological and motivational factors in the teaching of the disciplines so that at all times the following four basic principles are observed.
(I) The sequence of study should be such that the material to be studied is introduced in a coherent, logically progressive way, there being no single way of 'putting together the pieces in the jigsaw.'
(2)All human beings progress through certain clearly definable periods of growth and these determine what we are capable of learning.
(3)The distinct ways of structuring experience in each of the disciplines are as important as the actual content of a subject.
(4)Without an appeal to the imagination pupils will not be motivated to learn.

Item Type: Thesis (Unspecified)
Keywords: Phenix, Philip Henry, 1915-, Hirst, Paul Heywood, Education, Curriculum planning, Education, Humanistic
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1983 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (M.Ed.)--University of Tasmania, 1984. Includes bibliographies

Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2015 23:18
Last Modified: 24 May 2016 23:21
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