The taxonomy of knowledge



Part one

THE outcomes-based syllabus that the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) prescribes gives us more reason to expand our understanding of the taxonomy of cognition. Cognition, the “mental action or process of acquiring knowledge” is usually pegged with rote memory. Pedagogy lectures usually explain knowledge simply as knowing who, what, where, and when. Something like: Who discovered TB?What does K-12 mean?Where and when was Jose Rizal executed? But knowing factual knowledge is not the only knowledge to know.

The literature on the taxonomy of knowledge varies in terminology to describe the structure, or type of knowledge. These attempts at classification/categorization vary because of the variety of qualities and properties of knowledge. “Classifications encountered include knowledge as generic (or general) or domain specific, concrete and abstract, formal and informal, declarative and proceduralized, conceptual and procedural, elaborated and compiled, unstructured and (highly) structured, tacit or inert, strategic, or situated and meta-knowledge.”< types.pdf>.

The differences in classification or typology stem from the perspective of the classification. One perspective or philosophy that anchors one’s view of knowledge is on the use of knowledge, or whether epistemological (“the rationality of belief or justification”), positivist (information derived from sensory experience, interpreted through reason and logic) or ontological (the being and knowing of knowledge) view. <><>

For purposes of class instruction, we discuss classification of knowledge based on Krathwohl’staxonomy which presents four structures of knowledge. < outcome/documents/Krathwohl.pdf>. These are factual knowledge, conceptual knowledge, procedural knowledge and meta-cognitive knowledge. The basic structure consists of factual knowledge. This refers to knowledge of terminology and the specific details and elements within a discipline. Terminology refers to a technical or special term used in a field of endeavor such as “net income” in business, “surrealism” in art, “metastasis” in medicine, “dual degrees” in education, “loco parentis” in law and “maladaptive behavior” in psychology, etc. All these are factual knowledge. Defining these terms calls for “knowing” specific details and elements such as what makes income “net” not “gross,” or behavior “maladaptive,” not “adaptive,”etc. Terminology, specific details and elements help familiarize students with a discipline and solve problems in the discipline.

A second structure of knowledge is conceptual knowledge, characterized by the “interrelationships among the basic elements within a larger structure that enable them to function together.” There are three kinds of conceptual knowledge. One is classifications and categories. An example in biology is the classification of plants or animals according to their phylogenetic characteristics or to a hierarchical system of classification, or the broad classification of animals as invertebrates or vertebrates.

A second kind of conceptual knowledge is knowledge of principles andgeneralizations. A principle is “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.” < definition/americanenglish/principle>. An example would be the “principle of humanity” familiar to experts in international humanitarian law or the “principle of equilibrium” familiar to physicists. A generalization is “a broad statement that applies to many examples” … “or facts and what they have in common.” <> Generalizationsare not entirely true, because there maybe examplesof individuals or situations wherein thegeneralization does not apply. An example is “The only way a person can be properly educated is to have a college degree.” For more examples, please visit < Ghjvh.99>.

A third kind of conceptual knowledge is knowledge of theories, models and structures. A theory is “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, especially one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.”<>. There are many kinds of theories as there are fields of study. Science defines a theory as “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and a fact-based framework for describing a phenomenon. Such fact-supported theories are not ‘guesses’ but reliable accounts of the real world.” <https://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ Theory>. The “heliocentric theory” is a scientific theory – that the earth orbits around the sun. In psychology, “a theory is a fact-based framework for describing a phenomenon.”

Psychologists use theories “to provide a model for understanding human thoughts, emotions, and behaviors,” <› … ›>; sociologists use theories to explain social phenomena–“a proposed relationship between two or more concepts”–an “explanation or why or how a phenomenon occurs.” An example is Karl Marx’ “conflict theory” which emphasizes the role of coercion and power in producing social order. As to a model–this refers to a “systematic description of an object or phenomenon that shares important characteristics with the object or phenomenon. Scientific models can be material, visual, mathematical, or computational and are often used in the construction of scientific theories.” <>. They represent “a particular phenomenon in the world or processes in a consistent and logical way “making use of a diagram or picture or a physical model.” Examples are a model of the motion of the sun, moon and stars, or a model predicting eclipses or “a computer program or set of complex mathematics that describes a situation.”< academy/lesson/scientific-models-definition-examples.html> For example, the main processes that affect the atmosphere could be explained through a visual model. Abstract concepts are quite difficult to fully understand. Visual representation helps concretize these to learners.

Next week, we continue with examples of models in other fields and proceed to the last two kinds of knowledge structures.

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The author, an educator and institutional management expert, held top academic positions at Xavier University before heading chartered institutions. She studied at universities in the Philippines, Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is copy editor of the Liceo journals and professorial lecturer at the Graduate Studies of Liceo de Cagayan University in Cagayan de Oro City. Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the Commission on Higher Education and recently, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Verdienstorden der Bundesrepublik Deutschland).


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