/Tag: knowledge

If not knowledge, what?


knowledge /ˈnɒlɪdʒ/ noun facts, information, and skills acquired through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. "a thirst for knowledge" awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. "the programme had been developed without his knowledge" It came home to me for the first time yesterday that those of us who talk about putting knowledge at the heart of education might not be talking about the same thing. In a recent post, I wrote the following: Philosophers tend to think about knowledge as justified true belief. Getting to grips with this would involve recapping some [...]

If not knowledge, what?2018-12-05T16:36:02+00:00

"Understanding" and Occam's razor


At the beginning of the 20th century, the physicists Hendrik Lorentz and Albert Einstein both concluded independently that measurements of light speed would be the same for all observers. But while both arrived at the same results from their equations, Lorentz’s explanation relied on changes that take place in ‘the ether’. Because Einstein's paper On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies made no reference to a mysterious, undetectable substance, his explanation was accepted as being the most likely. Even after Einstein's theory of special relativity had been accepted, Lorentz wasn't willing to let go of his belief in 'luminiferous aether'. In 1909 he wrote, "Yet, I think, something may also [...]

"Understanding" and Occam's razor2017-06-24T09:39:08+00:00

Everyone values critical thinking, don't they?


NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir! Charles Dickens, Hard Times Gradgrind was a fictional character. Dickens invented him as a caricature of what was no doubt some fairly awful teaching in [...]

Everyone values critical thinking, don't they?2017-05-02T11:30:00+00:00

Why what you teach matters


I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that within the next two years Ofsted will stop grading the quality of teaching, learning and assessment as part of their overall judgement on schools' effectiveness. This will probably be replaced with a judgement on a school's curriculum and assessment policies and practices. If I'm right, how a teacher teaches will become less and less important, instead, schools will be increasingly held to account for what they teach. Even if I'm wrong, I think it's still very important to think carefully about what we teach. Judgements on how teachers teach are primarily  concerned with whether children [...]

Why what you teach matters2016-11-05T15:11:11+00:00

The Illusion of Knowing


Knowledge, n.: The small part of ignorance that we arrange and classify. Ambrose Bierce Advanced Learning has commissioned me to write a piece about the uses and abuses of data in schools. My thesis, if that's not too grand a term, is that while data can be extraordinarily useful in helping us make good decisions, too much data leads, inexorably, to overload. When we have too much data we start doing silly things with it, just because we have it. The cost of bad data is the conviction that we have figured out all the possible permutations and know exactly what we're doing [...]

The Illusion of Knowing2017-04-18T23:41:37+00:00

A decreased focus on facts & knowledge won't help either


Knowledge is that which, next to virtue, truly raises one person above another. - Joseph Addison The TES reports today that “A leading independent school headmaster has warned that the greater focus on facts and knowledge in reformed GCSEs and A-levels may fail to equip pupils for the modern world.” Well, duh. Anything may fail or succeed in its aims, but this statement sort of assumes that up until now GCSEs and A levels have been doing a bang up job of preparing students for the modern world. I have little doubt that some pupils will continue to be every bit [...]

A decreased focus on facts & knowledge won't help either2015-09-21T19:17:50+00:00

Chicken or egg? Thoughts about thinking


Which comes first? The chicken of knowledge or the egg of thinking? Over the past few years I have been advocating the view that thinking is a very shallow experience without knowledge. It seems self-evident that you can't think about something you don't yet know. Give it a go... tricky, isn't it? But not only that, the more you know the better you can think about it. If I ask you to think about, say quantum physics, unless you know something about it you'll probably be reduced to "What's quantum physics?" or repeating quantum physics, quantum physics over and over again. [...]

Chicken or egg? Thoughts about thinking2015-04-24T19:08:55+00:00

Can a good teacher teach anything well?


I used to work for a headteacher who was fond of saying "We're teachers of children, not teachers of subjects." This was justification for having non-specialist teachers in certain shortage subjects. Like any axiom, there's some truth in this statement: teaching children is an art unto itself. There's definitely a case to be made for the fact that I might do a better job of teaching a maths lesson than a random maths graduate. My years of teaching experience mean that I'm well-versed in the essentials of persuading teenagers to sit down and do some work instead of snap-chatting each other. [...]

Can a good teacher teach anything well?2016-09-03T16:06:52+00:00

Some dichotomies are real: the ‘and/or debate’


I get quite cross when I hear people who really should know better dismissing the knowledge/skills debate as a “mindless dichotomy". It’s not. The ideological opposition between proponents of these views is real, pervasive and powerful. The attempt by some educators to pretend that these differences don’t really exist is unhelpful. For the record, here is what I believe: Knowledge is transformational. You can’t think about something you don’t know. Once you know a thing it becomes possible to think about it. The thinking, in whatever form it takes, is a 'skill'. Not all knowledge is equal. Some propositional knowledge has [...]

Some dichotomies are real: the ‘and/or debate’2018-09-24T23:29:26+00:00

It’s not what you know… oh, hang on: it IS what you know!


I'm fed up of people who should know better saying they're bored with the false dichotomy of skills versus knowledge. The knowledge vs skills debate is always worth having because it conceals a more fundamental disagreement (a real dichotomy, if you will) about what's most important. Let's agree that no one is actually advocating that no knowledge is taught. I'm sure this is true. But saying that knowledge is 'just a foundation for higher order thinking' isn't good enough either. This picture from Joe Kirby's blog sums it up for me: Analysis, application, evaluation and all the rest are the merely the [...]

It’s not what you know… oh, hang on: it IS what you know!2018-09-24T23:37:12+00:00

Why the knowledge/skills debate is worth having


'I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike'. Maya Angelou I've come an awful long way since September 2011 when Cristina Milos took the time to point out that my view on the teaching of knowledge and skills were seriously skewed. I'm flabbergasted that, as an experienced teacher, I could have been so ignorant. I said at the end of that post that "I guess my conclusion isn’t that skills are more important than knowledge: rather that both are required for mastery of a subject." But I didn't really believe it. If [...]

Why the knowledge/skills debate is worth having2015-01-26T08:41:20+00:00

How knowledge is being detached from skills in English


I don't normally do this. In fact, I haven't put up a post by anyone else since last August. But in this case Joe Kirby has expressed my own thoughts so articulately that there seemed little point trying to repeat the same thing myself. Not only that, Joe is somewhat of a phenomenon. His grasp of the nuances of education theory belies the fact that he is only just completing his NQT year. When I compare his expertise to my ignorance at the same stage of my career I am staggered, and not a little ashamed. As such I would very much like for you to read his [...]

How knowledge is being detached from skills in English2013-07-22T06:52:56+00:00