Knowledge vs Know HOW

As schools struggle with standardized tests, ensuring students know whatever it is they need to know to be successful in their world, I feel “Education” is missing the target.[image credit]1

No longer can we focus merely on what our kids KNOW. We need to focus on what they know HOW TO DO. Those are two very different things in my book, yet most of our assessment and measurement tools only gauge the knowledge piece. Knowledge (minus skills) isn’t very useful to anyone, except the occasional game show winner.

I know a small business owner who is struggling with finding quality employees. When they interview with him, they seem like they understand the business very well. They are ‘equipped’ to answer all the right questions, and they can demonstrate what they already know very easily.

Yet, when left on their own, these same “highly qualified/knowledgeable” employees can’t take the initiative to do any work that wasn’t on the task list they were given. Troubleshooting is easy for them, but ONLY when it matches experiences they have already had. Anything new or different is completely beyond their capabilities. Plus, for those situations that have more than one right answer… I’ve seen some employees literally wring their hands in despair when there is more than one correct answer to a problem.

This is how they were taught in school:

  1. Do only the tasks I’ve set before you.
  2. Solve this problem, but use the exact method I’ve taught you.
  3. Circle the RIGHT answer (A, B, C, or D).

I don’t think everyone out in the workforce is like this, but employers are all seeing a trend… and for once, I’m truly seeing it firsthand and not simply hearing about it. This is the same trend we all discuss in our education circles about where is education going, are we preparing students for their world or ours, etc. What are we doing about it, though??

When we focus on giving kids answers, all they will be able to do is regurgitate those same answers back to us.

IF we could focus our efforts on allowing kids to FIND their own answers…

Imagine how much more they would learn!

Imagine how much more engaged they could be!

Imagine how many answers might be out there that we didn’t even know were there!

I know more than a few employers who would be very happy to have some independent and critical thinkers who could problem-solve with little to no guidance. And really, isn’t that we want for all our students?

1 malavoda. “Missed the target.” malavoda’s photostream. 28 March 2008. 25 March 2009.

2 thoughts on “Knowledge vs Know HOW

  1. Right on! I teach a class called AVID. Two days a week, we have small groups lead by grad student tutors. The students bring questions from core classes. Then they work with other students with tutors to discover their own answers.

    Today I had one group work through this question: “What are other ways to turn a liquid to gas without evaporation?” They decided after 20 minutes of awesome discussion and analogies that evaporation is the only way.

    Right or wrong doesn’t really matter. The discussion, thought, and process of getting the answer were outstanding.

    I think that is what you are getting at and I believe that is the key to education.

  2. “Knowledge (minus skills) isn’t very useful to anyone, except the occasional game show winner.” – Something worth reflecting for by teachers and professors. I agree with every single word you said in this post and this matter should really be given attention to. In my university, there are those professors who encourage students to think creatively to solve a problem and not just focus on what’s on the book but there are really those professors who put their loyalty to books and would not allow their students to solve the problems using their own creative minds. Very substantial post.

    James Ramirez

Leave a Reply to James Ramirez Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *