Lesson 6 Question 1
Does Procedural Knowledge Start as Declarative Knowledge?
There is a fundamental difference between declarative and procedural knowledge. Declarative knowledge refers to factual knowledge and information that a person knows. Procedural knowledge, on the other hand, is knowing how to perform certain activities (Bruning, 46). According to John Anderson of Carnegie-Mellon University, all knowledge starts out as declarative information and procedural knowledge is acquired through inferences from already existing knowledge. (Payson) This is not to say that all procedural knowledge is "higher-order" knowledge. It is often done without any attention to what we are doing or why we are doing it, or automatized. (Bruning, 47) An example would be driving a car.
Any skill being learned starts out as declarative knowledge. For example, when I was learning to play tennis, I learned all about the rules of the game, where to come into contact with the ball on my racket, how to make the ball go where I wanted to by the follow through, and how to position my body for a backhand stroke. This is a set of factual information. Putting those facts into practice helped me gain the skills to transform a series of declarative knowledge into procedural knowledge. The skills I acquired couldn't be learned simply by being told. I gained the skills only after actively putting them into practice and being monitored by a coach who was constantly providing feedback.
In education, there is a mix of declarative and procedural knowledge being presented. It is important to remember that declarative knowledge has to be present to form procedural knowledge, but it shouldn't be the only type of knowledge taught. Learning the declarative knowledge helps set the stage for the procedural knowledge. Teaching students to use the facts and information they have gained in context helps ensure long term retention. Below are listed some of the benefits of emphasizing procedural knowledge in school.
|Declarative Knowledge||Procedural Knowledge|
|Reliant on authoritative Instruction||Reliant on coaching and modeling from teacher.|
|Lends itself to Elaborate Grading system and ability groupings.||Flexible and open-ended, spontaneous, progresiveness,dialogic context.|
|Fosters dependency, Tell me what to do and think attitude.||Self-directed, personal efficacy.|
|Easily forgotten||Long-term retention.|
|Stifiles creativity and discourages independent problem-solving and strategy building.||Yields creative, reflective thought and promoters critical thinking and independent decision making.|
|Teacher's role as dispenser and arbiter of knowledge.||Teacher's role as enabler, facilitator, stage manager, guide, resource.|
Below is a graphic from The Knowledge in Knowledge Management (KM) website that illustrates the connection of declarative and procedural knowledge. Procedural knowledge depends on having built the prior, or declarative, knowledge.
Fred Nickols, 2000
Bruning, Roger. Cognitive Psychology and Instruction. Chapters 1-3.
Tennis lessons, Homestead Country Club. 1984-1992.
Anderson, John. The Architecture of Cognition, (Cambridge, 1983) Chapter 6, Procedural Learning.
Classification of Knowledge.
Constraints on the Processor.
Hetrick, Judi. Looking for Insight into Teaching.
Nickols, Fred. The Knowledge in Knowledge Management (KM)
[Note from Mr. Nickols when asking for permission to cite his
page: For what it's worth, I do not believe that procedural knowledge starts out
as declarative knowledge. I believe they are two different forms of
knowledge. I believe declarative knowledge plays a role in developing or
acquiring procedural knowledge but I do not believe it is the case that
declarative knowledge is converted into procedural knowledge. Nor do I
believe that declarative knowledge must be present to develop or acquire
procedural knowledge. We do, after all, learn to do things on our own
(e.g., we learn to identify faces without anyone ever telling us what to look
Mount Saint Vincent University. Literacy, Curriculum & Technology.
Payson. Anderson's Framework for Cognitive Skill Acquisition.