The four types of knowledge you’ve definitely experienced across your lifetime.
The dictionary defines intelligence as “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge”.
However, within our lives, we’re applying knowledge in a multitude of ways across various domains, some better than others.
But what is knowledge?
It has been described as awareness, expertise, information, facts, skills and the list could go on…
A psychologist, David Krathwohl (2002) created a taxonomy that helps explain how human beings process and internalize objects on an affective or emotional level. He distilled knowledge into four types: Factual, Conceptual, Procedural and Metacognitive.
Across our lives and careers, moving from toddlers to young adults into business professionals — we have undoubtedly expressed one or all of these knowledge types. We’ll uncover the four categories and disclose how better managing each kind could help you optimize your professional life.
1. Factual Knowledge
These are the terminologies, glossaries, details and necessary building details of any professional domain. Taking a basic example — if you were a front-end developer, this may be writing in HTML, CSS, React or following written structures of any other scripting language.
Unfortunately, until it imprints on our minds — our memories are typically not the best places to store our knowledge, be it analogue or digital. We usually interact with factual knowledge in notes, documents, tutorials, books or even through ‘experts’ who already have years of domain-specific expertise under their belts.
It’s obvious enough that if you want to become an expert in a domain or achieve a prescribed goal, you will need to know the related factual knowledge associated with it. More so, if you need credibility or are in a role where you will pass on this kind of experience — you’d better have a systemized structure to collecting it.
The acquisition of factual knowledge is typically associated with experiences across our lives. Therefore, it makes more sense that we link them to events, experiences or companies over time rather than nestled within a subcategory of a notebook within a digital shelf. Wouldn’t you agree?
2. Conceptual Knowledge
Recognizing the interconnectedness of facts is what forms the body of conceptual knowledge stored in our minds. Conceptual knowledge allows us to collect facts and ideas and group them into clusters that represent connectivity.
For example, collecting factual knowledge about a particular race, gender or ethnicity over time helps us form generalizations or principles around any given topic. Connecting these facts about organizational structures, roles, experiences and linking them to each other through repeated validation is what forms the basis of theories, models and systems.
But, really unique knowledge comes about finding facts across different domains and uncovering patterns, similarities or differences between them, allowing us to form novel frameworks or theories.
3. Procedural Knowledge
As the name suggests, procedural knowledge is the kind that represents every task or action required to attain any given goal. Procedural knowledge is typically stored across the continuum of time and typically describes the specific skills or algorithms that need to be computed to execute a more significant task.
This type of knowledge holds techniques and micro-procedures that can be stored in manuals, guides or other long-term storage mediums for ease of retrieval. Over time and with a multitude of feedback loops, procedural knowledge becomes part of our long-term memory making us experts in the ‘how-to-do XYZ’ in a specific domain.
4. Metacognitive Knowledge
Metacognitive knowledge could be seen as the ‘mother’ of all other knowledge types. It houses your ability to use your procedural, conceptual and factual knowledge in combination at any given time. Metacognition represents your ability to use previously learned knowledge to plan a strategy, be self-reflective or understand the world around you.
When professionals acquire, store and use their metacognitive knowledge well — they tend to expand upon their capacity to be strategic and adaptable to the fast-paced world around them.
Interacting with more people, notes, events, companies, facts and techniques that show up daily only adds to the complexity of the world around us. Therefore, having the skill, or the right tool (a.k.a. Weavit) to intelligently manage and store it is crucial. Linking and relating every new bit of knowledge you acquire to surface contextually could be the key to your professional and personal success.