Paradigm – loose ends, tidy thinking Part 2


Knowing about knowledge Part 2


Superficially it seems that we know enough about knowledge to be able to talk about it fluently. It comes in two forms: procedural and declaritive. Procedural knowledge can be directly applied to a task, for example solving a problem, and the knowledge is formed by doing the problem solving task. Declaritive knowledge here could be called knowledge about problem solving. However, from my understanding of knowledge and information, what’s called declaritive knowledge looks more like information and prodedural knowledge more of a process than an object. This isn’t a settled field. Maybe we don’t know enough. Or maybe I don’t.


Luiztavio Barros writing about language acquisition says:


“Procedural knowledge is (….) knowing how to do something. It contrasts with declarative knowledge, which is knowledge about something. For example, I may read about the importance of perfect arm strokes and coordination while swimming and yet drown like a stone when inside the pool. This may sound obvious, I know, but as far as language learning goes, there’s more to it than meets the eye. Declarative knowledge enables a student to describe a rule and perhaps apply it in a drill or a gap-fill. Procedural knowledge, on the other hand, enables the student to apply that rule in real language use.


Not surprisingly, procedural knowledge does not translate automatically into declarative knowledge – try asking a native speaker to explain why exactly she said “I’ve been there” rather than “I went there”. In the same way, declarative knowledge does not automatically cross over into communicative language use. In other words, students may be able to describe a grammar rule and manipulate it through controlled exercises, but consistently fail to apply the rule in communication – spoken or written.”


Educational psychology puts things in this way: ( ‘Declarative knowledge is a persons ‘encyclopedic’ knowledge base, whereas procedural knowledge is specific knowledge relating to performing particular tasks. The application of these cognitive paradigms to education attempts to augment a student’s ability to integrate declarative knowledge into newly learned procedures in an effort to facilitate accelerated learning.’


This suggests that knowing how to do something is a fixed procedure deploying specific knowledge for a specific task without reference to the context of the action. Declarative and procedural knowledge are treated as discrete but amenable to integration. This is quite a different notion to mine, outlined in my previous post, about information and knowledge being different from one another, knowledge being uniquely created and deployed in the moment of action.. Rewriting this using ‘information’ and ‘knowledge’ as I understand them, would look more like this:


“Know-what is a person’s encyclopaedic information base, including the specific step-by-step information of the actions necessary to complete a specific task, a task related skill. Teaching a student the information contained in routines or hierarchies of action may produce more rapid and consistent action on their part. The student’s performance of the action, seen as know-how, may become automatic if they are given the opportunity to practice. The student’s know-what can be assessed by standardised testing; their know-how by recording their actual performance and interpreting the performance of the skill – for example by recording the performance on video and asking  asking them to comment on it).”


‘In the field of second language learning other writers ( e.g. Krashen ) claim that declarative and procedural knowledge are two separate entities, (language acquisition being associated with comprehensible input, language learning with exposure to grammar) while others believe that declarative knowledge can be proceduralized through practice. There’s a third group that argues that it’s noticing (and renoticing) rather than practice that will push students’ interlanguage development forward. In other words, there is far from unanimous agreement that practice makes perfect as far as language learning goes.’


In the context of the classroom, a student brings some procedural knowledge with them into the classroom and adds to it, for example by learning about learning strategies, the rules, actions/action sequences, and skills that result in successful learning. 


In the business world knowledge and information are described in non-technical terms. Procedural knowledge is called ‘Know-how’, practical knowledge on how get something done. Declarative knowledge is called “Know-what”, facts and information. There are also the categories “know-why” (science) and “know-who” (communication) containing know-how and know-what specific to these areas of activity. Know-how is seen as often tacit and difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or speaking it. The opposite of tacit knowledge is explicit knowledge that is readily communicated. Interestingly Know-how is recognized in U.S. Tax regulations as an industrial  property. Services by individuals having know-how are not.


‘A chief practice of technological development is the codification of tacit knowledge into explicit programmed operations so that processes previously requiring skilled employees can be automated for greater efficiency and consistency at lower cost. Such codification involves mechanically replicating the performance of persons who possess relevant tacit knowledge; in doing so, however, the ability of the skilled practitioner to innovate and adapt to unforeseen circumstances based on the tacit “feel” of the situation is often lost. Expert know-how is broad and deep, say of a chess grandmaster. Even with massive processing power current computers cannot achieve this “feel”.’


Note: Information technologists seem to be ambiguous about the relationship between tacit and explicit knowledge and in the use of terminology in talking about information and knowledge.


‘The conflicts (…..) are reflected in Ikujiro Nonaka’s model of organizational knowledge creation, in which he proposes that tacit knowledge can be converted to explicit knowledge. Transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is known as codification. In that model tacit knowledge is presented variously as uncodifiable (“tacit aspects of knowledge are those that cannot be codified”) and codifiable. This ambiguity is common in the knowledge management literature.


Nonaka’s view may be contrasted with Polanyi’s original view of “tacit knowing.” Polanyi believed that while declarative knowledge may be needed for acquiring skills, it is unnecessary for using those skills once the novice becomes an expert. And indeed, it does seem to be the case that, as Polanyi argued, when we acquire a skill we acquire a corresponding understanding that defies articulation.’


(see )

An end note on noticing


( ) 


‘Traditional information processing models explain acquisition as the conversion of declarative knowledge, obtained through explicit instruction, into procedural knowledge through processing practice which involves the automatisation of controlled processing. The Noticing hypothesis reverses this process: implicit knowledge is acquired through focusing attention on a form which becomes procedural knowledge; declarative knowledge may develop later with practice.

Schmidt defines noticing in a special sense, meaning apperception as opposed to conscious attention.  Conscious attention is a metalinguistic process which leads to metalinguistic knowledge; noticing is a more subtle phenomenon.

Doughty claims that:


People learn about the structure of a complex system without necessarily intending to do so, and in such a way that the resulting knowledge is difficult to express. (Doughty 2003)


Automatic processing is activation of a learned sequence of elements in long-term memory that is initiated by appropriate inputs and then proceeds automatically – without subject control, without stressing the capacity limitation of the system, and without necessarily demanding attention. Controlled processing is a temporary activation of a sequence of elements that can be set up quickly and easily but requires attention, is capacity-limited (usually serial in nature), and is controlled by the subject. (http// (Schneider & Shiffrin, 1977)’

According to this idea, there two kinds of skills


1) skills as sets of information coming straight out of the information store, know-what rather than know-how, automatic, fast with no capacity limitations, light on processing power demands not demanding attention


2) skills as know-how, an on-demand set of know-what elements, capacity limited and controlled by the performer, context related, requiring attention and resource hungry.


Does that sound plausible?








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