Liz Sanford
Ed Psy 399OL
Tom Anderson Instructor

Lesson 6 q1 Declarative Knowledge



Learning is the accumulation of knowledge and the constant reorganization of that knowledge.  Declarative Knowledge can most closely be thought of as fact retention.  We store huge bits of individual information known as declarative knowledge.  This knowledge can be an essential piece of procedural knowledge, which is the knowledge of "how to do things".  The distinction between these two types of knowledge, how they function and how they are stored help use to determine better teaching strategies.   Declarative knowledge is stored in long term memory as propositions. For instance, "There are nine planets and and one star in our solar system" would be stored in our brains as, "our solar system has nine planets" and "our solar system has one star".  As we link additional information about the solar system, "Many asteroids are also present in our solar system,"  connections are made between the propositions. The number of connections made and the quality of the connections contributes to how fast we can retrieve information stored.   Our brain relates new information to what we already know and begins to "file" information into schemas.  Our solar system schema includes all of facts we have about the solar system. This information is constantly being reorganized to include new facts and adjusts to conflicting information.

Declarative knowledge is the first step in the stair case of thinking.  Before a student can learn to read (procedural knowledge) he needs to have the knowledge of letters (declarative knowledge) and letter sounds .  We can't expect students to divide numbers before they have learned what the numbers are and what they mean.  Teachers provide an abundance of declarative knowledge daily.  We teach colors, numbers, letters, what nouns, verbs, and adjectives are, facts about geography, government, history, behavior expectations, information about famous people, places and events. Students  learning how to read a graph(procedural knowledge) must first have a basic understanding of the content the graph provides.

Teachers often try to relate new information to prior knowledge allowing students to make new connections and enter new information into the existing schemas.  Cross curricular units contribute to the building of schemas.  We can teach planet facts in science, distance from the sun or diameters in math, read about their history in reading, discover current events in social studies, etc.   One way to activate schemas is to do a KWL chart.  K stands for what do you "know".  This allows students to activate what they have already learned about a subject.  This type of activity is also helpful in that it allows teachers access to any misinformation a student might have.  The W stands for "what you want to learn" about the subject and the L portion is completed after studying the subject so that you can compare what they knew prior to what they "learned."

Reviewing information already taught is critical to the learning process.  It not only activates prior knowledge, or schemas, but it makes stronger connections allowing for better information retrieval.  Teaching strategies like the Madeline Hunter model include beginning a lesson by relating personal experiences to the lesson objective: (lesson)

       Anticipatory set or Set Induction: sometimes called a "hook" to grab the student's attention: actions and statements by the teacher to
       relate the experiences of the students to the objectives of the lesson. To put students into a receptive frame of mind.

              to focus student attention on the lesson.

             to create an organizing framework for the ideas, principles, or information that is to follow

              to extend the understanding and the application of abstract ideas through the use of example or analogy...used any time a
              different activity or new concept is to be introduced.

Most lessons are taught assuming that students have some prior knowledge to the content.  When our class learned about Rosa Parks and civil rights I assumed that most of my students already knew of Martin Luther King Jr. and some of the struggles of African Americans.  To help them recall information they learned earlier, we read a short story about M.L. King.  The use of Venn diagrams and graphic organizers also help students to organize information.  They can compare and contrast items thinking about what they've learned and put information into categories  enlarging their schemas and reinforcing connections. If the information is independent of other knowledge is it meaningless.  It must be organized, included into a schema, to be useful.
 

References:

Web Sites:

Lesson strategies

Knowledge Web- Declarative Knowledge-  Good site but it wasn't working the last time I checked!!

Huitt, W- Information Processing Approach

Anderson, Tom- The interaction of memory structures