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    1st October 2011

    Knowing vs. Understanding

    Click here for a quick video clip.

    And another video clip to watch (don’t watch the whole thing unless you want to).

    And one more pre-post video clip.

    The clips above, from fantastic but very different programs, give examples of people who had some knowledge, but not a full understanding. When my niece was 3 or 4, she memorized the whole Christmas story word for word (can’t remember if it was Matthew or Luke’s version) by listening on a CD she had. She could repeat the whole thing if prompted. And if asked she would have understood some of the details, but at that age many of the “between the lines” elements of the story would have been beyond her grasp. She had knowledge but not full understanding of the story.

    Likewise, when I was in middle school, on a whim I memorized the first 40 or 50 elements, elemental numbers, and atomic masses in the periodic table. However, there was very little I could practically do with that knowledge until I was a high school AP Chemistry student, when that knowledge served me very well. Then I knew the various periodic trends and knowing exactly where the elements were located in the table allowed me to quickly balance reactions, among other things. But even then my knowledge of chemistry was such that I wouldn’t have been able to put it to use in creating a new, more efficient production method for an important chemical – something that chem grad students work on day in, day out. I had some knowledge, and some understanding, but not the ability to apply what I had learned.

    Each of those phases – knowing, understanding, applying – require different skills. This is one of the emphases of Wiggins and McTighe’s book, Understanding by Design, that I mentioned in an earlier post. They actually consider there to be six “facets” to understanding: Explanation, Interpretation, Application, Perspective, Empathy, and Self-Knowledge. As a former (and future I hope!) runner I still like to keep up with running news by checking on a site called Letsrun. On Letsrun there is a “World Famous Message Board” and on that message board community members post about running and all kinds of other topics. One topic is relationship advice. Now, a running website might not be the best place to go for relationship advice (here are some great thread examples), but I think that the advice given often reflect Wiggins and McTighe’s six facets of understanding.

    Most posters on these discussion threads usually ask for more information about the situation. They want to know the details before they give advice. Or they have standby advice that comes from others but not their own experience. Other posters will try to interpret the actions of the girl in question (90% of those on Letsrun are of the male persuasion). They’ll offer possible (or impossible/improbable, most of the time) explanations for the behavior in question. Next there will be folks who post advice of what to do based on their own experience. This is application. These posters will tell a fellow runner that what they need to do is just get out there and meet new girls to get over an ex, or to just go for it and ask that girl at the coffee shop out (what do you have to lose?!).

    There will also occasionally be either male posters who try to look at it from the girl’s perspective, or female posters who really do give the female perspective. They’ll say things like, “Don’t hit on her at work – all baristas get hit on and she’s probably just being nice because it’s her job…”

    Other posters will show how they feel for the OP (original poster) by letting him/her know how sorry they feel – some will even share from their own experiences and talk about how those situations turn out. Finally, some posters will try to turn the situation around on the OP and present it as a situation in which he or she can learn more about himself/herself.

    All of these responses are valid in some way and can help the OP understand the situation, even though they all come from different angles.

    Ok, I’m going to the USC-Arizona football game, so I need to finish this post! Have a wonderful Saturday and fight on!


    2 Responses to “Knowing vs. Understanding”

    1. Frosty says:

      Thank you for the clips. I am working on a presentation on UBD and they will be perfect to introduce enduring understandings.

    2. Daryl says:

      Ha awesome. Glad I could help out a little!

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    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.