The concept of tacit knowledge is sometimes presented as a type of knowing with two dimensions: It is acquired through experience rather than direct instruction, and the knower is unable to articulate it or, as the now familiar phrase goes, “We know more than we can tell.” However, a broader importance of the concept must be recognized because it represents a historic rupture in many social scientists' understanding of the nature of knowledge. Developed by chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi, the concept contributed to what has been called the “interpretive turn” in the social sciences, as well as to the reconceptualization of curriculum studies.

In the mid- to late 20th century, some social scientists began a shift away from positivism, the belief that there can ...

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