WHAT IT MEANS TO
(a short and sweet explanation) -
Dr. Bob Kizlik
January 17, 2018
Knowledge, I believe, is constructed from
information received in some manner by the learner. In a sense, learning
itself can be described as the outcome of the process by which knowledge is
constructed. In this vein, it is important to distinguish between
information and knowledge. It is my opinion, but I believe that all books,
magazines, guides, videos, papers, etc., do not contain knowledge for the
reader, observer, or listener. These media may represent the knowledge of
the person or persons who created them, but the result is mere information
for the recipient. Information is transformed into knowledge by the
recipient when certain conditions are met. One person's knowledge is
initially another person's information.
Knowledge, as I see it occupies a
continuum of functions that goes from explanation to prediction. I believe
that any knowledge a person has is by definition personal knowledge.
Although people may share similar understandings, each is in some way
different from all others. But what it really means is that a person who has
constructed knowledge is able to do things that a person who does not have
knowledge cannot do. This is a simple, yet powerful concept.
The functions of knowledge
The explanation function of
knowledge means that a person can describe in written or oral form what it
is he or she "knows" to the extent that a person familiar with the subject
of the putative knowledge would make a reasonable inference that the person
doing the explaining understood the subject of the explanation. It's rather
simple -- if you know, you can explain.
The control function of knowledge
means that the person claiming the knowledge is able to use it in some
observable way to actually influence or manipulate events, objects, or
processes in accordance with either accepted procedures or in novel ways
that lead to a desired outcome with little or no undesirable side effects.
It is possible to exercise the control function of knowledge relating to
some object or process without being able to explain the attributes of the
object or process. Think of driving a car as an example.
The predict function of knowledge
is the most profound, important, and least appreciated of the three. If a
person has knowledge at an advanced level, it can be taken to mean that the
person is able to use that knowledge to make more accurate predictions. Of
course, the proof of the pudding is not in describing it but in eating it.
Consistent accurate predictions beyond the accepted .05 statistical
threshold of chance or sampling error lead to the inescapable conclusion
that the person making the predictions possesses knowledge.
And we know this because...
How do we know for sure that a person
understands what we intend for him or her to understand? There is no easy
answer, but one thing is clear -- we always make inferences about what we
don't know based on what we do know. That simple declarative sentence is a
major cornerstone for using behavioral objectives. Of course, some will
quibble with such adjectives as "behavioral," "learning," or "instructional"
when speaking about such objectives. I think the adjective makes little
difference, but for the sake of argument, here is one way to deal with it:
We are always interested in the learning,
regardless of its antecedents; therefore,
occupy the apex of a pyramid. I chose the term "learning objectives"
when developing the program "How to Write Learning Objectives," although I
do refer to them often as behavioral objectives in the program. It is
inescapable that a learning objective will contain some description of
We infer learning because of some
observable behavior. Therefore, the next layer from the apex is
behavioral objectives. A behavioral objective is a statement that
describes what a student will do in order for learning to be inferred.
Sometimes we infer learning where no learning has taken place, often as the
result of certain objective tests whose outcomes are taken to mean a student
Finally, there are instructional
objectives, the base of the pyramid. Ostensibly, such objectives, as you
may have alrteady read about on the ADPRIMA site,
describe an outcome related to
The assumption is that the instruction is external to the one being
instructed. While this is true most of the time, it is not a very good
description of learning that takes place in a idiosyncratic, personal way.
In fact, I believe that most learning takes place independently of any
formal teaching or instruction. The very process by which you are reading
and reacting to the information on this page and the previous page is
certainly illustrative of the point.
All that preceded this sentence is
reflective of my knowledge, and my ability to explain what it is I know. For
you, the reader, it is mere information. If you internalize this
information, attach some meaning to it, it can become part of what you know
if it results in one of the three functions described above.
To that end, I sincerely hope this has
been of benefit to you.
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