If you are new to the concept of ‘powerful knowledge’ here is a brief crash course (you might also like to read this). In Young and Lambert’s phrasing: “knowledge is ‘powerful’ if it predicts, if it explains, if it enables you to envisage alternatives” (Young and Lambert, 2014, p. 74). However, this is not the full picture. There are other criteria Young uses to define ‘powerful knowledge’:
- PK is distinct from everyday knowledge;
- PK’s concepts are systematically related to other concepts or ideas within a discipline
- PK allows generalisations and thinking beyond particular cases or contexts;
- PK is developed within specialist disciplines or fields of enquiry, and is therefore peculiar to the discipline
- PK is the product of broad disciplinary agreement;
- PK is always provisional in relation to the truth processes of the discipline.
Powerful knowledge and curriculum
Young and Lambert make the case in “Knowledge and the Future School” that the identification of ‘powerful knowledge’ is an important tool for considering curriculum construction. They argue that the concept of ‘powerful knowledge’ might help schools “reach a shared understanding about the knowledge they want their pupils to acquire” through the collective wisdom of the various disciplines (Young and Lambert, 2014, p. 69).