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Stages of Understanding: Know


Stage 1: Know

This stage is the most foundational of the stages, and is most closely analogous to Bloom’s knowledge or remember (1956, 2001), Webb’s (2009) recall and reproduction, and Costa’s (1996) Level 1:  Text explicit. This stage involves learning that is source-dependent, such as from a textbook or teacher, and accumulates, but does not necessarily build. As an example, students might learn that George Washington was the first president of the United States or be able to state the Pythagorean Theorem.  Learning at this stage is foundational, and without further progression up the learning scaffold to the “use” level, information learned functions as nothing more than trivial knowledge.

Equivalent Stages: Bloom’s Knowledge/Remember, Webb’s Recall and Reproduction, Costa’s Text Explicit


Gradations Within the Stage

Success in the know tier is achieved through independent student recall of the target of instruction.  Using the Washington example above, students would be able to produce the answer George Washington when asked who was the first president of the United States.  In math, a student successfully achieving the “know” stage might be able to recite the Pythagorean Theorem when prompted. Students who have not yet met the threshold of independent recall would demonstrate progress by being able to recognize information that was the target of instruction or by being able to recall information with the aid of mediation (the help of a knowledgeable other - cf. Vygotsky).  In our example, a student would successfully select or identify George Washington on a multiple choice or matching test, or be able to recall Washington with the help of scaffolding prompts or questions. In the case of our math student, he or she might be able to recognize the theorem from among others or to respond to a scaffolding prompt or question (eg., What is the formula for finding a missing side of a right triangle?).

In short, a student approaches mastery at this level by recognizing a correct answer or recalling such an answer with assistance.  A student achieves mastery by recalling the answer.  

This level is further divided for planning purposes into three sub-categories:  must, should, and nice. Each has a role to play in preparing students for higher-level stages.

Must:  This category consists of information that is vital for continuing up the scaffold.  While one might be able to argue that a student could study presidents of the United States without knowing George Washington or geometry without knowing the Pythagorean Theorem, and simply look up a list of presidents or find the necessary formula in a book; mastery of the foundational information in this category is necessary to enable a student to use what he or she has learned and engage in SDL.

Should:  Information in this category is useful for continuing up the scaffold, especially to the highest level, but is not necessary to a student having the ability to understand and use a concept, principle, or idea.  If a student is to be considered accomplished, rather than simply competent, in the subject being taught, he or she should have mastery of information in this category.

Nice:  Information in this category is not essential, but potentially useful for context or breadth of knowledge


Sources of Authority

Authoritative sources of information for the Know category of learning are brought to the student through the teacher or texts.  Students do not draw from their own experiences or introduce their own data. Instead, there is one answer that experts would agree to be objectively correct.   


Character/Nature of Learning

Learning at the Know stage is source-dependent.  As a result, students are judged by how well they are able to display knowledge of facts from legitimate classroom sources.  While students may accumulate a good number of facts in this stage, learning does not necessarily build until students get to a higher level of understanding and are able to use and expand what they know.  Knowledge in this category is static and unchanging, and can easily be compartmentalized and categorized.


Character/Nature of Assessment

Assessment is generally measured by tests requiring students to recognize (as in multiple choice) or produce a single, correct answer.  Results can easily be quantified and, along with the use level, often form the basis for “data” that is used to measure students within, between, and across groups.


Why Is This Important?

Obtaining mastery of the Know stage is valuable for building a general foundation/body of knowledge - especially as it supports the next stage of learning.  



  • Vocabulary definitions

  • Knowledge of pertinent facts (eg., atomic weight of an element, genus and species of an animal, name of an explorer)

  • Recitation of a math formula