Project 1B: On Knowledge and What It Means to Know Something

The general subject of this Project 1 class for 3rd year students is knowledge and learning. Our goal is to  focus on what it means to learn and the different ways people (and animals) learn things. Students will research about the history of learning theories over time. Once they understand the theories behind how people learn, students will critically evaluate assorted learning materials to examine how effective those materials are for achieving the stated learning goal. In the final stage, students will design their own learning materials/activities and explain how those materials reflect the appropriate learning theory for the stated goal.

Over the semester, I want students to expand their thinking on the topics below:

  • What is knowledge?
  • Are there different kinds of knowledge?
  • What does it mean to know something?
  • What is learning?
  • What does different kinds of learning are there?
  • What are different ways we learn?
  • What is the difference between understanding and remembering?
  • How can we facilitate learning?

To get the ball rolling, we started with a series of discussion questions:

  1. How would you define “knowledge” in your own words?
  2. Can you think of a time when you believed you knew something, but later realized you were mistaken? What did that experience teach you about the nature of knowledge?
  3. Do you think there is a difference between “knowing” something and “believing” something? If so, what distinguishes the two?
  4. In your opinion, what role does evidence play in acquiring knowledge? Can knowledge exist without evidence?
  5. How do you determine whether information is reliable and trustworthy? What criteria do you use to evaluate the credibility of sources?
  6. Can knowledge ever be absolute, or is it always subject to change and revision? Why or why not?
  7. How do personal biases and cultural influences impact the acquisition and interpretation of knowledge?
  8. Reflecting on your academic journey, how has your understanding of knowledge evolved over time? Have there been any significant shifts in your perspective?
  9. Do you believe that there are different types or levels of knowledge? If so, can you provide examples?
  10. What role does curiosity play in the acquisition of knowledge?
  1. 自分の言葉で「知識」を定義するとしたら、どのように定義しますか?
  2. あなたが何かを知っていると信じていたけれども後で間違っていたことを思い出せますか?その経験から、知識の本質について何を学びましたか?
  3. 「何かを知っている」と「何かを信じている」との違いはあると思いますか?もしあるなら、その違いは何ですか?
  4. 証拠は、知識を獲得する際にどのような役割を果たすと思いますか?証拠なしで知識は存在できますか?
  5. 情報の信頼性と信頼性をどのように判断しますか?ソースの信頼性を評価する際に使用する基準は何ですか?
  6. 知識は常に変化し修正される可能性がある、または絶対的なものである可能性がありますか?その理由は何ですか?
  7. 個人の偏見や文化的な影響が、知識の獲得や解釈にどのように影響を与えると思いますか?
  8. 自分の学問的な旅を振り返って、時間の経過とともに知識の理解がどのように変化しましたか?視点に大きな変化がありましたか?
  9. 異なる種類やレベルの知識が存在すると信じていますか?もしそうなら、具体例を挙げることはできますか?
  10. 好奇心は知識の獲得にどのような役割を果たすと考えますか?

The purpose of these questions was to activate students’ schema on this overall topic and have them vocalize their thoughts on things we often have an intuitive understanding of, but rarely enunciate vocally. 

In Week 1, I showed them how a Skinner Box works, and then we had a contest on who could perform the best in a “virtual skinner box”. The point of this exercise was to show students how they can learn without being taught. While most students scored between 7 and 9 in 60 seconds of play, the winner had 11!

In the second week of class, we spent the entire period talking about Knowledge and Knowing and how, because “you don’t know what you don’t know,” it can be difficult to be aware of possibilities and learning opportunities. 

We talked about the philosophical description of knowledge as a justified true belief:

  • Justification: there must be evidence or something that supports the belief.
  • Truth: the belief must be true.
  • Belief: the individual must actually believe it is true. 

This is important because people can display knowledge/have the correct answer for the wrong reasons. While the philosophical nature of these topics can be difficult to grasp, concrete examples were used to illustrate what we were talking about. 

For example, here is a True or False statement:

Water boils at 90 degrees C. 

What do you think? Is the above true or false? What is your surety level? Are you 100% sure of your answer? Click here if you want to check if you are right or not. 

At the end of class, students were assigned to look into one of two topics: people who believe the earth is flat or people who believe the moon landings of Apollo are a hoax. They reported on the beliefs of these people and the stated justifications for those beliefs. 

I look forward to more exploration as the semester continues.