KAQ(F): pragmatic, interactive, pedagogical, STS

KAQ(F) is a schema in which the following items are considered in relation to each other:
K—What do I Know? (or claim to know)
A—Action: What actions could people pursue on the basis of accepting this knowledge?
Q—Questions for inquiry: What more do I need to Know—in order to clarify what people could do (A) or to revise/refine/support the knowledge claim (K)?
(F)—How to Find this out? (Methods, Steps…)


In Project-Based Learning (PBL), students are encouraged to identify questions that the PBL case or scenario raises for them (example1, example2).

A pragmatic use of KAQ(F) is that, once you have opened up zillions of Questions for further inquiry in PBL, you need to filter them.  Three filters:

1. how would you Find out an answer to this Question with your skills, in the time available, plus or minus leads from the instructors?

2. why do you want to Find out the answer to this Question — what Knowledge would that provide that you would like to have?

3. will that Knowledge help address the PBL case, that is allow you to take the Action requested (which may be the product that the case asks you to generate)?

An interactive use of KAQ(F) is for one person to probe another person’s thinking, e.g., If you are trying to Find out an answer to a Questions, the person interacting with you asks you to spell out your thinking about what you would do with that answer (Action).

Another pragmatic use of KAQ(F) (as described here) helps you organize your thinking and research keeping an eye on actions, that is, what you might do or propose or plan on the basis of the results. Start with a Knowledge claim OR with a proposed Action OR with a Question for inquiry you wish to consider. Then fill in the rest of the KAQ(F)s that connects with that starting point. For example, if you entered a proposed Action, then write down what Knowledge claim(s) this Action is based on. Then move forward to identify Questions for inquiry that follow and how you might Find out the answer to the Question.

A pedagogical use of KAQ is shown in this presentation for a public audience aimed at showing what race has to do with health.

A broadbrush use of KAQ for social studies of science and technology (STS) is conveyed by some excerpts from “Why was Galton so concerned about ‘regression to the mean’? -A contribution to interpreting and changing science and society” DataCritica, 2(2): 3-22, 2008 (pdf).

“This essay interprets [Q] Francis Galton’s explicit concerns about biological inheritance in terms of his implicit views of the [A] appropriate role of his social stratum. [K] The pattern of regression means that exceptional individuals in one generation cannot rely on biological heredity to guarantee that their offspring will be part of the next generation’s exceptional individuals….”  [emphasis added here, so as to highlight the issue that Galton’s science is being interpreted by the author {=me, in this case} in terms that he did not literally state]

Themes running through the essay:

[K->A] “It can be illuminating to ask what the authors (including ourselves) state or imply about what we can do. (This deliberately broad formulation encompasses views about the social actions and organization they support as well as their views about the capabilities of different people growing up in our society and how difficult these are to change.)”

Reciprocal animation: “Close examination of [K] concepts and methods within any given natural or social science can stimulate [Q] our inquiries into the diverse social influences shaping that science [especially A], and reciprocally [and A-> Q ->K].”

15-minute Video exposition of KAQ framework with attention to the Action component.

A more nuanced or fine-grained use of KAQ for social studies of science and technology (STS) is implied by the framework of heterogeneous construction, which traces the diverse practical considerations involved in establishing or modifying Knowledge (or effectiveness of a technology).


About Peter J. Taylor
Peter Taylor is a Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston where he teaches and directs undergraduate and graduate programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society. His research and writing focuses on the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context, incl. Unruly Complexity: Ecology, Interpretation, Engagement (U. Chicago Press, 2005) and Nature-nurture? No (2014, http://bit.ly/NNN2014). On reflective practice, see Taking Yourself Seriously: Processes of Research & Engagement (with J. Szteiter, 2012, http://bit.ly/TYS2012).

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