So why does learning have to happen in a K>U>E way? (In a relative universe why cannot it happen E>U>K or U>K>E or K>E>U or X>Y>Z?). The reason is because learning happens (and can only happen) in an integrative way.
Knowledge: is facts, are discerned, are identified, concern levels 3/4 (KSIII), grades G-D (KSIV), grades E-D (KSV). If you take the simplest piece of learning it is made up of elemental components – pieces of knowledge, facts, things to be recognised. The starting point of learning is to recognise those basics, to identify them, to discern them. To identify or discern them you need to be actively ‘looking’, ‘hearing, ‘smelling’, ‘tasting’ or ‘feeling’ for them – you need to be open and ready to ‘get it’, ready to recognise them. This recognition is the simplest form of cognition – it is empirical (seen, heard, smelt, tasted, touched) and then named. This is Knowledge (K).
However learning cannot stay at mere recognition otherwise it remains just a functional skill – it has no meaning or purpose.
Understanding I: perceives the function, concerned with how facts are connected, involves level 5 (KSIII), grade C (KSIV), grade C (KSV). To ‘make sense’ of a fact you need to find how it links with other facts – how they connect, how they work together, how they relate. When a link has been found, then understanding has been developed (you stand ‘under’ the two, otherwise discreet, facts seeing a link between them that wasn’t perceived before, you have abstracted from the erstwhile discreetness). With this understanding you can then go on to explain (show) the connection and use or construct the newfound connection…
Understanding II: perceives the contingency of the function, how facts are connected on a more macro level, webbed understanding, systems understanding, involving level 6 (KSIII), grade B (KSIV), grade B (KSV). This is a higher level cognitive apperception because the link/connection can only be made by this abstraction-from-discreetness which enables perception of structure, process, function in the first place. You cannot see, hear, smell, taste or touch structure, process, function, you have to cognise it. To move from factual knowledge to structural understanding you need to abstract from discreet exclusivity. To abstract from discreet exclusivity you need to think – and here is the work of learning. You don’t just ‘get it’, you have to ‘work it out’ (and then report how you worked it out in order to have it recognised, assessed). This is Understanding (U).
Evaluation: involves questioning, developing, operating at level 7+ (KSIII), grade A+ (KSIV), grade A+ (KSV). Are we finished yet? No, because you could then question, improve, alternate, innovate, combine, revise, expand, plan, rewrite, extend, pose questions on, synthesize, generalise, propose, theorise, create, integrate, project, invent, rearrange, modify, develop, appraise, conclude, critique, judge, assess, contrast, deduce, weigh, criticise, evaluate those links/connections and find all sorts of ways to advance and exploit that initial abstraction of Understanding. The connections found between facts are not empirical – they cannot be verifiable simply by looking/seeing etc. again. They are verifiable through reason, cohesion, concordance, performance etc. etc, which can be challenged and alternated and modified as there is need and context. As this verification is refined and developed, the application of the idea deepens, in that the initial connection, the initial understanding (‘standing under’), refers to more than the initial referents, it includes alternative referents, it includes related referents, it can even come to include erstwhile un-related referents as the concept deepens. The concept deepens because of another abstraction: an abstraction which moves from the functional and mechanistic (Understanding) to the considered, reflective, principled, metaphysical. The concept becomes deeper – expertese and mastery is developed. The scope of this application is as wide as the sky, the result of this application is a one behind the many. This is Evaluation (E).
You cannot have an understanding until you have something to ‘stand under’ – facts. You cannot evaluate and play with an understanding until you have an initial functional understanding in the first place. This has significant implications for learning (i.e. you cannot evaluate before you’ve understood, before you have knowledge of; you have to learn K>U>E). Likewise you have to just recognise Knowledge, you cannot work it out, you cannot conjecture it; you have to work out Understanding, you cannot just see it or receive it (‘get it’); you have to experiment to Evaluate, you cannot just be briefed. This has significant implications for teaching (i.e. you, as the teacher, have to move from E > broken down to U > broken down to K in order to ‘feed’ it back to pupils through your teaching), (or rather, U >>> breakdown for K (differentiation), and U >>> springboard to E (extension); see ‘constructalesson’, coming to a screen near you … soon; (and the ‘Cone of Knowledge’ which is in pre-production but which will be a blockbuster when it launches!)).