Kenneth J. Gergen

Kenneth J. Gergen
Swarthmore College · Department of Psychology

PhD

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412
Publications
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24,861
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Publications

Publications (412)
Chapter
Relationships are especially important in childhood and hence in primary education. There are already ground-breaking practices of evaluation in primary classrooms that illustrate how relational approaches can support children’s learning and well-being. These practices often involve dialogue, reflective questioning, peer collaboration, and mutual a...
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A central purpose of evaluating teaching is to help teachers develop professionally. In contrast to traditional teachers’ appraisal and teachers’ performance management, relational approaches can overcome the current impasse where student test scores are used to judge teachers. Such practices undermine teachers’ confidence and professionalism and f...
Book
Practices of assessment in education are byproducts of a bygone era. When testing and grades become the very goals of education, learning suffers, along with the well-being of students and teachers. In this book, the authors propose a radical alternative to the measurement-based assessment tradition, a vision in which schools are no longer structur...
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In this conclusion, the authors consider steps toward systemic transformation in education. They offer proposals for relation-enriching actions in the classroom, the whole school, the community, higher education institutions, and beyond. In the classroom, the authors emphasize the art of inquiring, the art of listening, the art of appreciation, and...
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Relationships are of paramount importance for adolescents whose lives are undergoing changes in many dimensions. With appropriate support and care grounded in relational processes, young people can more readily overcome disaffection and apathy. In this chapter, the authors place special emphasis on the quality of interaction and exchange among stud...
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School inspection based on the standardized measurement of student test performance is among the significant causes of teachers’ stress and school leaders’ frustration. To truly understand how a school provides meaningful educational experiences, it is imperative to involve the reflection of all stakeholders. Viable alternatives from a relational s...
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Replacing the assessment orientation requires an alternative to the idea of schools as sites of production. To do so, the authors challenge the conception of schools as composed of individual actors whose performance can be measured independently of their lodgment in the social world. They argue that our understandings of the world, along with our...
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This book starts by highlighting the different purposes of evaluation in education, including its contribution to student learning, teachers’ professional development, the school community’s progress, and the informed participation of parents and other stakeholders. However, largely owing to the current educational system that structures schools as...
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Practices of dialogue, collaboration, and participatory action appear with increasing frequency across the landscape of contemporary education. Of particular significance is their presence in emerging practices of curriculum design and pedagogy. In this chapter the authors first explore the close relationship of these developments to relational eva...
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A relational orientation to evaluation is developed with three primary features: the first is a focus on the process of co-inquiry, where stakeholders inquire together into the student’s learning and development; the second is an emphasis on adding value to experiences of learning; and the third is the enhancement of meaningful relationships key to...
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School leaders, teachers, and students from around the globe voice frustration at finding themselves increasingly enslaved by exam scores, performance targets and school rankings. While aimed primarily at institutional accountability and raising educational standards, measurement-based systems of assessment have become counter-productive for teache...
Book
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Beyond the Tyranny of Testing Relational Evaluation in Education Kenneth J. Gergen and Scherto R. Gill Abstract Practices of assessment in education are byproducts of a bygone era. As grades and test scores now become the very goals of education, learning suffers, along with the well-being of both students and teachers. Proposed here is an altern...
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This chapter extends the early work of Smedslund on the common sense underpinnings of hypothesis testing in psychology. As Smedslund argued, experiments do not test hypotheses about the relationship between psychological process and behavior because any failure to verify would defy cultural understanding. Here I propose that the intelligibility of...
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Cambridge Core - Education, History, Theory - Ethical Education - edited by Scherto Gill
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Presents an obituary for Edward E. Sampson (1934-2019). Sampson was a brilliant critical psychologist and social commentator. As a child he aspired to become "a song and dance man" but settled for being an inspiring teacher, ground-breaking writer, and skillful (and humorous) public speaker. When he laughed or danced, he bore a remarkable likeness...
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One might characterize the conception of “social science” as in a continuous state of evolution. Possibly resulting from the pervasive spirit of revolution in the 1960s, the speed of evolution was markedly intensified. Although a seasoned experimental social psychologist, I began as well to reflect on assumptions central to my discipline. In 1973 I...
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The traditional orientation to the psychological study of culture presumes a more or less stable and coherent unit of study. Cross-cultural psychology, for example, compares cultures via various measures, presuming that said measures will enable prediction of life within these cultures. In this offering we propose that cultures are in continuous mo...
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Extending early work on the limits of hypothesis testing, I propose that psychological explanations for behavior draw their intelligibility from tautology. A reliance on tautology is born of the impossibility for ostensively defining the explanans (e.g., the state of mind presumably giving rise to action). Thus, one makes psychological sense by exp...
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The present offering grows first from the seeds of widespread discussion across the disciplines on the potential of description and explanation to map, picture, or otherwise correspond to its subject matter. As such discussion makes apparent, representations of the world—in both science and daily life—are social creations employed by people in the...
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The concept of evocative ethnography is described and contrasted with realist representation. Two examples of evocative ethnography are provided: the plight of women as they age, and the impact of digital immersion on cultural life. Discussion focuses on the benefits of expanding the repertoire of writing in the social sciences.
Book
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This edited collection explores how spirituality and social construction, broadly construed, can enrich each other for the benefit of the world. Leading practitioners from Europe and North America offer a rich integration of personal and professional stories that map the contours of contemplative constructionism. Taking a critical, reflexive stanc...
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This panel, which took place at International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry in May 2016, examines the experiences of five scholars who have retired from university life and the responses to the panel by two scholars anticipating that transition. Panelists discuss how and when they decided to retire; the role of the university, department, and pro...
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It is important to note that Ken Gergen (1985) has been a champion of social constructionism throughout his career. In this most recent interview Gergen emphasizes the case that he has made, in his more recent writings, for a “reflective pragmatism” which means shifting attention away from questions about “why some descriptions of human action [are...
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A therapist’s ethical values will not always match those of his/her clients; nor may the values of client or therapist be acceptable to all outside their relationship. To whose values should a therapist be responsible? Here it is useful to think in terms of first and second order ethics. First order ethics are those common to everyday life; they ar...
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With the rapid and ever accelerating pace of global change, the traditional command and control organization becomes less effective. When we understand the organization not as a rationally constructed machine, but a sea of conversation, the door is opened to new and more effective forms of practice. No longer is individual identity based on one’s r...
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Across a significant spectrum of the therapeutic profession, we find a gradual but ever intensifying convergence in conceptions of the therapeutic process. At the heart of this convergence lies the human activity of generating meaning. First and foremost, we find the therapeutic relationship one in which human meaning is not only focal, but also pi...
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World conditions, marked by increasingly rapid and pervasive change, present a significant challenge to psychology’s traditions of theory, research, and practice. What does this portend for the future directions of the field? Here I propose that our most promising course of action is to shift our priorities from investments in establishing truths a...
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A therapist's ethical values will not always match those of his/her clients; nor may the values they share be congenial with those central to their acquaintances outside. To whose values should a therapist then be responsible? Here it is useful to think in terms of first and second order ethics. First order ethics are those common to everyday life;...
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There is much to admire about these timely contributions by Jackson (see record 2015-35231-004) and Lundrum and Garza (see record 2015-35231-005). Both are appreciative of the recent flourishing of qualitative inquiry in contemporary social science, along with the longstanding animus to such inquiry within traditional circles. Both are acutely sens...
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Humanist conceptions of the person evolve across history. Whereas humanism has served a pivotal role in the caregiving professions, its individualist emphasis now stands as an impediment to its future. Proposed is a relational reconceptualization of the person, placing relational as opposed to individual well-being at the forefront of humanists' co...
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The mental health professions are turning increasingly to a neurobiological conception of human behaviour, and to pharmacological answers to complex problems of living. The movement is largely premised on the assumption that drugs are efficient and effective 'cures' for mental disturbance. This offering, however, touches first on some of the devast...
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We address the significance and implications of the formal entry of qualitative inquiry into the American Psychological Association. In our view, the discipline is enriched in new and important ways. Most prominently, the qualitative movement brings with it a pluralist orientation to knowledge and to practices of inquiry. Adding to the traditional...
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Traditional ethical codes for therapists typically stress responsibility for the well-being of the client. However, in a world of plural cultures, criteria of well-being may conflict; what is «good» for one is not for another. Further, a therapist's ethical sensibility may conflict with the client's. In this offering, I trace all ethical orientatio...
Chapter
The mental health professions are turning increasingly to a neurobiological conception of human behaviour, and to pharmacological answers to complex problems of living. The movement is largely premised on the assumption that drugs are efficient and effective ‘cures’ for mental disturbance. This offering, however, touches first on some of the devast...
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After decades of acrimonious debate on the nature of scientific knowledge, researchers in the human or social sciences are reaching a state of relative equanimity, a condition that may be characterized as a reflective pragmatism. Yet, even while the context has favored the development of new forms of research, the longstanding ocular metaphor of in...
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Background/Context The assessment of students, along with teachers and school systems, has largely taken place within a context of positivist science. An enormous range of scholarship now challenges the positivist paradigm, offering a social espistemological alternative. This alternative invites a reexamination of assessment processes and their pol...
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This symposium explores the expansive vocabulary and generative practices associated with the word “design,” through three papers. We will discuss the consequences of emphasizing design as activity rather than “thinking.” We will also present two case studies on the social dynamics created in by introducing the vocabulary and action of design in tw...
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In this symposium we will explore the expansive vocabulary and generative practices associated with the word “design,” through three presentations. We will discuss the importance of emphasizing design as action rather than design as thought. We will also present two case studies of the social dynamics involved in efforts to introduce design process...
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The attempt to provide a grounding and unifying metaphysics for psychological science is both innovative and ambitious. Whether to embrace Hibberd's proposal, or indeed any foundational metaphysics, is subject to question. In this reply, I focus on the severe limitations inherent in Hibberd's analysis, and propose, in contrast, that psychology flou...
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Psychological science is now in a period of major transition. After almost a century of dominance by a foundational view of empirical science, a new pluralism is sweeping the field. We witness the rapid and global expansion of perspectives, visions, and goals of inquiry. Partly owing to the traditional distinction between quantitative and qualitati...
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Here we challenge the traditional separation of science and art and demonstrate significant ways in which the social sciences can be enriched through performative inquiry. We begin with a brief commentary on philosophic work that detaches representation from observation. In effect, there is no privileged (in principal, accurate, neutral, or objecti...
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The preceding chapter challenged the guiding assumptions and values underpinning the major practices of Western psychology. If such practices are potentially inimical to dealing with global challenges, what alternatives are invited? Here we turn attention to practices of inquiry. In a globally responsible psychology, how are we to conceptualize the...
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The emergence of a new family of collaborative therapy is a sorely needed alternative to the individualist and pathologising practices now dominating the culture. This new family of practices focuses attention on the relational processes out of which our conceptions of the real, the rational, and the good are moulded. However, in this shift in focu...
Book
Excerpt from the preface: It’s often said that leadership is primarily a matter of communication skills. But what are communication skills? This may seem obvious, but it’s not at all. In fact, the entire concept of communication has changed in recent years. No longer does good communication simply mean that a leader should listen carefully on the...
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In this chapter, the authors explore the discourse of mental disorder. Their attempt is to augment the already articulated "merits" of diagnosis by proposing some of the limitations of such discourse. Specifically, the authors discuss the ways in which diagnosis—or discourse of mental disorders—invites therapists into patterns of stigmatizing and b...
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In recent decades we have witnessed a broad convergence among therapeutic schools toward a common concern with human meaning. This concern first centered on individual subjectivity, but more recently shifted to meaning within relationship. At the same time, this latter move, often identified as social constructionist, questions the possibility of r...
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Nanjing University psychologist Liping Yang interviews Kenneth Gergen on the development of social constructionist thought and practice. The conversation treats a variety of issues, including the development of constructionism as a new paradigm, qualitative research, education and other practices informed by constructionism, value loaded science, r...
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1 offer here an alternative to psychodynamic accounts of inherent psychic conflict, one that views all human meaning as the outcome of relational process. As adults we carry the residues of multiple relationships. With these potentials continue with others to generate meaning. In effect, we relate with others as multi-beings, harboring enormous, bu...
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We focus on four major tensions pervading much narrative inquiry to date, tensions that threaten to divide the field into alienated enclaves. Of specific concern are psychological vs. social explanations of narrative, structural vs. process orientations to research, approaches that celebrate experience vs. those that textually deconstruct experienc...
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Derksen extends the discussion of brain determination in significant ways. He rightfully challenges my criterion of “Could I do otherwise?” as a way of gauging the force of brain determination, and discussion fruitfully shifts to the negotiated spaces between self and embodiment. Derksen also recharges my use of the term “instrument” by linking it...
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I thank my colleagues for their generosity and their engaging reactions to my book. It is interesting, as well, to see the variations in the readings they give to the text. Churchill's initial view that I am not offering ontology is useful, as it speaks to a pervasive concern within the other commentaries that I am dismissing or dismantling cherish...
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My hopes for my book, Relational Being (2009), were several in number. After placing the tradition of the individual or independent self under critical scrutiny, the initial attempt was to generate an account of persons as inherently relational. If the origin of all meaning lies within collaborative action (co-action), then not only does the indivi...
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I thank my colleagues for the enlivening ways in which they sustain the conversation. In certain respects, the conversation moves in four different directions. With Churchill, I find myself in a learning mode, appreciating more fully the relational dimensions of phenomenology; with Clegg, I find us on a conversational route toward affinity; with Su...
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The paper begins with the articulation of key assumptions central to contemporary constructionist scholarship. This is followed by an analysis of the issues in the social construction of the self. To this end several major lines of inquiry along with their socio-political implications are brought into focus. Finally, an alternative to traditional c...
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Given that the conception of the person as an autonomous agent is a cultural construction, inquiry is directed to its potentials and shortcomings for cultural life. While such a conception contributes to sustaining the moral order, it also supports an individualist ideology and social divisiveness. As an alternative to the conception of moral auton...
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Responds to the reviews by K. O'Doherty (see record 2011-04026-005) and J. W. Clegg (see record 2011-04026-006) of the current author's book, Relational being: Beyond self and community (see record 2009-10534-000). One of my chief reactions to the resistances represented in these reviews is that the volume failed to make clear a vision of how we mi...
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The shift in focus from entities to process in organizational theory is both theoretically challenging and rich in potential. In this chapter I first consider two major challenges to the traditional science of organizations, including a shift from research devoted to establishing empirically based covering laws to a science invested in generating f...

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Projects (6)
Project
The aim of this project was to forward a social constructionist reading of education