Nurturing in children a sense of self, a passion for learning, community, and childhood.
Types of Knowledge

Types of Knowledge

We maintain a very low student to teacher ratio at The Attic, typically averaging 8 to 1.  This allows us to work closely with students and to know our students very well.  At The Attic our work with children is informed by careful attention to the different types of knowledge and how learners "come to know" in different parts of the curriculum. 

Social Knowledge: Must be told/taught, or transmitted, but will be learned more effectively if it is meaningful and seen as useful to the learner.  Thus we seek to create authentic contexts for active learning.  (This kind of derived knowledge is simple to test and measure, yet easy to forget. It is even possible to "know" this kind of knowledge without understanding it! It is the focus of the psychometric approach to education.)


Physical Knowledge
:
Children need ample time to explore the physical world.  No one can do this for them.  Physical knowledge forms the basis for logical-mathematical thinking. Psychometric approach usually doesn't have time for this.  It is seen as frivolous "play" and only allowed in preschool or Kindergarten classrooms.


Logical-Mathematical Knowledge
:
This is developed or constructed within the mind of the learner.  Physical knowledge, work with objects, forms the basis for logical-mathematical knowledge. (This fundamental, yet more difficult to test and measure, thus tends to be neglected by a psychometric approach to education.)

 Social Knowledge

 Physical knowledge

Logical-Mathematical Knowledge 

can only be transmitted socially
such as customs, particular names,  and labels for things

 involves the understanding
of the physical world- how objects and materials behave as a
result of their characteristics and
attributes

 involves the construction of
knowledge about relationships
 between objects

 anything that is clearly culturally determined and
therefore arbitrary

 this knowledge is "out there" in the world; it is empirical

 consists of relationships
constructed by each individual

 children cannot
construct it

 lays the foundation for later,
more abstract thought
involving understanding
things that are not empirical

 must be constructed

 must be given by
another person    

 knowledge of objects in
external reality -ie. color and weight are in an object's external reality

 cannot be told

 must be transmitted from the culture to the child through person-to-person teaching, books, or other media

 i.e. knowledge that a chip will fall when we let go of it in the air is not observable or empirical.

 e.g. "different", "similar", "the same in weight", and 'two". "The similarity of difference between one chip and another does not exist in one chip or the other, nor anywhere else in external reality...this relationship exists only in the minds of those who can create it between the objects" Kamii 1985


Understanding of the three types of knowledge as described by Piaget forms the basis of our work with children.  It helps us to decide when it is appropriate/necessary to "tell" children and when it is appropriate/necessary to "let them puzzle it out".  For example, if a student is engaged in working with a bulb, a battery, and a wire, trying to get the bulb to light, we leave them alone and let them work.  If we see that they are frustrated or disengaged, we might approach with a gentle "Tell me about what you have tried." After listening carefully, and echoing for clarification, we might ask "What do you plan to do next?" or "What else could you try?" We might even offer to stay and "help", but our help will only involve possibly holding a wire or bulb as directed by the child.

What we do not do in this situation, is to show the student how to connect the bulb and battery to light the bulb.  This second approach robs the child of the opportunity to puzzle it out for herself and own it.  This would be to take what is fundamental (logical-mathematical) knowledge and treat it like social or transmitted knowledge.  It will also risk teaching the child that she is not good at science and cannot figure it out on her own.  Remember, the brain is ALWAYS learning.

Many of us learned mathematics as if it were social rather than logical-mathematical knowledge.  We memorized someone else's "tricks" and "short cuts" to specific types of problems and felt great insecurity when required to puzzle out a "story problem" (real-life application) on our own.  We were robbed of the opportunity to think for ourselves.  What we learned instead of mathematical sense may have been mathematical insecurity or even phobia.

References:
Kamii, C., with DeClark, G. (1985). Young children reinvent arithmetic. New York: Teachers College Press. [This book has been replaced by a 2nd edition published in 2000.]

Chaille, Christine and Lory Britain, The Young Child as Scientist: A Constructivist Approach to Early Childhood Science Education 1997.