4 Types of Knowledge

Dear companion,

Do you know the four knowledge types?

You should if you are interested in knowing how to close knowledge-based performance gaps in any area of life.   According to Krathwohl (2002), knowledge can be categorized into four types: (1) factual knowledge, (2) conceptual knowledge, (3) procedural knowledge, and (4) metacognitive knowledge.  It’s important to know the distinctions and to understand your own knowledge strengths and areas of need to better meet your personal and/or organization’s goals.

Factual Knowledge

You can define factual knowledge simply as the terminologies, specific details, and basic elements within any domain.  This is the information that can and must be learned through exposure, repetition, and commitment to memory.  Luckily, since our memories are not the best places to store facts, we can help ourselves by knowing where to access factual knowledge when we need it (i.e. where to find the information in our books, online, our notebooks or journals, or asking that person who you know knows it!).

It is common knowledge that to be successful in meeting a goal, you need to know the related  “facts”.  A salesman better know the facts about the product or service he is selling! The CEO better know “the facts” about his core business if he or she wants to have credibility.  A school principal better know “the facts” about good teaching methodology and pedagogy.  How else can he or she be an instructional leader?

Conceptual Knowledge

Related to factual knowledge, conceptual knowledge can be understood as knowing the interrelationships and/or functions among the details and elements that make up a larger structure. This definition includes (1) knowing information classification and categorization, (2)  knowing principles and generalizations, and (3) knowing theories, models, and structures.  Basically, conceptual knowledge is knowing that facts can be organized in meaningful ways.  Taking the example of a business marketer, it is not enough to know the details of his or her products or services and that of the competition. There must be conceptual knowledge of the differences and the meaningful competitive advantage of one over another.

Procedural Knowledge

This knowledge type is critical for success in goal attainment because it puts the “what” into action through the “how” process.  Procedural knowledge can be understood as knowledge of (1) subject-specific skills and algorithms, (2) subject-specific techniques and methods, and (3) criteria for deciding when to use the right procedures.  Many times, we see others performing wonderfully, and we ask ourselves: How do they do it?  We can read their books or watch their videos to learn the needed factual and conceptual knowledge, however, knowing “how to” put that declarative knowledge into practice requires…practice!  When you cognitively know “how to” do something, then you need to physically try it and pay close attention to both the process and outcome. If you are listening to your body, your mind, and your gut (using all your senses), you will gain information through multiple feedback loops, and those loops of information will guide your analysis and future actions in becoming better at “how to” do it.

Metacognitive Knowledge

This is probably the least paid-attention-to knowledge type because sometimes it feels uncomfortable to reflect on what is happening inside your world. We fear what we might find.  Metacognitive knowledge can be understood as (1) strategic knowledge, (2) knowledge about cognitive tasks (i.e. contextual, conditional), and (3) self-knowledge.  Because people are complex, and groups of people only add to the dynamic of complexity within a system, having a good measure of metacognitive knowledge (that is, engaging in this type of thinking) is critical to your performance, well-being, and success. For example, if you are meeting a client who shares vastly different cultural values and ways of knowing than you, then it behooves you to be paying attention to contextual clues.  Like a dance, you move together, in sync, and there is no way of knowing beforehand what the next step is going to be! You must be aware of yourself, the person as he or she moves and speaks, and the situation as it unfolds. You bet that you better be listening and making the most of your information inputs.

If you have any goals in your personal or work life, pay attention to your knowledge needs– it will help you to increase success and goal attainment.  Answer the question: Am I lacking factual, conceptual, procedural, or metacognitive knowledge?  By addressing gaps in knowledge, you will be on your way to greater learning and success with your goals.

Your friend in learning,

Dr. Joel Tapia

Reference

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into practice41(4), 212-218.

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