Knowing and Understanding

I wanted to title this piece “Knowing Me, Knowing You” but I decided not to.

A couple of folk, recently, have written about this. @daviddidau and @claresealey. I only want to add one smallish point to what they have written.


The essential idea is that understanding is no more than more knowledge. For me, this is obviously true but I know that for others that understanding is king where (mere) knowledge is a pauper. They use the idea of teaching knowledge, rote learning, as at best the lowest form of education. They are wrong. But I want to give my view on the ‘difference’ between knowledge and understanding.

I am agreeing with both the above bloggers that understanding is just more knowledge.

Complete understanding is unobtainable. Understanding is a growing process where more and more added knowledge, and critically, more linking to stuff we already know increases our understanding. In a programme I run with outstanding teachers I ask of anyone completely understands anything. Some take up the challenge but I can always find something they do not yet know, hence they do not fully understand anything. But I have shown their ‘lack’ of understanding comes from something that they do not yet know.

Understanding is knowing lots about something and having lots of linking to things we already know.

A rule of thumb that seems to work is that knowledge tells us what initially and how as the knowledge base grows. When linking is sufficient we can start to answer why questions.

In simple term to increase our understanding just ask, “What else do I need to know?”

I’d love to know what else I need to know to understand understanding.

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