How Knowledge Grows…

We are all now familiar with the idea of schema: the mind-map diagrams representing knowledge and the relationships between items of knowledge.

Knowledge into knowlegde #1
A schema representing the relationships between knowledge

And we are familiar with how Cognitive Load Theory uses schemata to explain how richer schemata make us more creative and better problems solvers.

Core Session #19 (1)
Working memory can draw on schemata to deliver knowledge with very low effort.

Finally, we probably all remember reading Daniel Willingham on chunking groups of knowledge together to make a new single composite item of knowledge (see here).

Here is my representation of chunking using our familiar schema model.

Knowledge into knowlegde #2
Each item of knowledge is a composite of existing knowledge.

…and so on. Forever.

Knowledge into knowlegde #3

This model has implications for how we understand complex ideas in our teaching. For example, if we are teaching food webs, our learners will need to have mastered some really simple ideas: foxes eat rabbits; rabbits each grass; grass needs sunlight. This is the first layer of the schema.

The next layer could be the terminology of producer, consumer and predator.

The third layer could be drawing food chains to show the relationships.

The last layer (for now) is drawing these as a food web.

My point is that it is worth periodically going back and checking that all of your learners are aware that foxes are carnivores, and that plants produce their own food before you go on to do something more complex.

This may be obvious, but I find these diagrams remind me the importance of secure foundations and not getting ahead of myself.

🙂 Ben

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