The Difference between Knowing and Understanding

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 September 2016

The Difference between Knowing and Understanding

This paper tries to point out the differences between what it means to know and to understand. These two subjects are preliquisite of one another in that it is impossible to understand what one does not know. The paper also outlines how these two subjects impart on teaching in our schools. Most of the schools teach by what is popularly known as, to learn by rote, which according to Webster’s dictionary, is to learn by memory alone without comprehension or thought. Key words: Understanding, Knowing

KNOWING AND UNDERSTANDING The Difference between Knowing and Understanding The difference between knowing and understanding is evident. Knowing is akin to simply memorizing something and is a precursor for understanding. Understanding means that you can apply the knowledge that you have. Knowledge is absorption of data and understanding uses the knowledge as a foundation. It implies therefore, that understanding is absent without knowledge. It’s possible to know something without necessarily understanding it.

For instance one may know that for living things to grow, they require nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates and others, but they may not understand how this nutrient brings about growth. Wiggins and McTighe (2006) explains that to truly understand something, we must know it instinctively more than just being able to recite facts or theory, and do it unconsciously. When we know something, we can understand the concepts through practice and gaining experience.

The ultimate purpose of learning in school is to understand important concepts in addition to knowing them. Students should be given an opportunity to practice the knowledge they have gained in class so that they can gain new skills and have an in depth understanding of the material that learn. This is because to understand something means that you can teach it, explain it and defend it. You can also connect any information that is related to it. This is only gained through practice and experience (Wiggins et al. , 2006).

Teachers should teach their students to understand concepts, rather than presenting them with facts that are going to help them pass their exams. The reason for this is that the student is not able to grasp the concepts intellectually, and therefore they forget the material in long term. In order to understand concepts, we work against obstacles that limit our understanding such as beliefs, unproved theories and taboos set out by our cultural backgrounds. KNOWING AND UNDERSTANDING

The idea of education as a technique to sharpen intellectual discipline, to nurture higher cultural wellbeing or teach civic principals has simply vanished. To effectively deliver knowledge, teachers must ensure that their students understand the material. This can be achieved by setting up a curriculum that draws on an array of skills, stressing thinking and analysis over the rote of memorization. According to Wiggins et al. (2006), there are six facets of understanding; explanation, interpretation, application, perspective, empathy and self-knowledge.

Any one of facets provides knowledge, but a masterly of all of them ensures understanding of any material. In essence teaching should be aimed at understanding, since retaining facts is much easier when you see how they fit into a larger picture that makes sense. To educate is to deliver knowledge in an understandable form which should be our main role as educators. KNOWING AND UNDERSTANDING Reference Wiggins, G. , McTighe, J. (2006). Understanding by Design. (2ed. ). Upper Saddle River; New Jersey: Pearson Education.


  • Subject:

  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 September 2016

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