As I was talking to my daughter this week about her goals – some of which aren’t so achievable or realistic I summarised knowledge in these four ways:

  1. Knowledge that we KNOW – this knowledge we can teach to others.
  2. Knowledge that we UNDERSTAND – this knowledge means we talk about it with others gleaning from their understandings but contributing as well.
  3. Knowledge that we are AWARE OF – this knowledge we know is out there, we can follow a conversation and we know enough to ask questions should we have to but we wouldn’t instigate a conversation on the topic.
  4. Ignorance – a lack of knowledge! Know nothing, we can’t recall anything about the topic

We will not be able to KNOW all things, in order to teach all things.  This level of knowledge will usually be kept for our passions or the things that necessity has made us learn.  Most of the stuff we learnt at school falls into the knowledge that we are aware of – I can keep up in a conversation and I know enough to ask a question should I be speaking to someone who is more knowledgeable or I know enough that I can find key words and do a Google search.

Why are these distinctions important?  Because as you set goals for your academic learning (though not necessarily limited to academic learning) you need to know which level of knowledge you are aiming for.  For example at the moment I want to learn about orchids.  I would say I have an awareness of orchids; my grandmother has grown them and I’ve had one that lived only for a short time.  I have seen Better Homes and Gardens TV shows about orchids but I have a very limited knowledge or understanding about growing them or the variety of different breeds etc.  As I set out to learn more about orchids I need to know the purpose of my learning.  Do I want to become an expert in the field of orchid growing in Australia, or do I want to be competent in my own back yard.

This conversation helped my daughter realise that she did not need to become an expert in every field of interest that she had.  That being exposed to knowledge was an important part of her learning journey.  That there will be aspects of knowledge that she will delve into with mighty vigour, there will be other aspects of learning that she will just gain an understanding of and that is still considered knowledge.

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