What is understanding?

We now know that memorizing fact is not “totally” equivalent to “understanding”.  But we cannot deny that facts are important to thinking and problem solving.  So what is missing between facts and understanding. 

An emphasis on understanding leads to one of the primary characteristics of the new science of learning: it focus on the process of learning (Piaget, 1978; Vygotsky, 1978).  In most general sense, the contemporary view of learning is that people construct new knowledge and understanding based on what they have already known and believe (e.g. Cobb, 1994; Piaget, 1952, 1973 a b, 1977, 1978; Vygotisky, 1962, 1978)

We need to make the facts learnt useable.  Explained in the book of “How People Learn”, Expert’s knowledge is useable becuase they are connected and organized around important concepts; it is “conditionalized” to specify the contexts in which it is applicable;  it supports understanding and transfer (to other context) rather than only the ablility to remember.

Our challenge as learner and/ or teacher is to:

  •  make the new facts or learning connected to our perious knowledge (without the “fish is fish” effect)

  • find a way to create “motivation” to learn and at the same time “tell” the facts for faster learning speed. 

  • develop intrinsit motivation about learning and still taking care of the judgemental assessment created in the “System”. 

This is not a simple topic that a few paragraphs can explain all the researchs that people has made in the past.  A more practical direction of thinking is how to make the learning process more efficient in helping people to understand something.  I believe (without any research backing that) understanding is content depending.  We need different pedagogy or “pedagogical content knowledge” to help people to understand different kind of contents or concepts.


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