At Dixons Kings, we value knowledge. Because of this, every student receives a folder with ‘knowledge navigators’ for each subject. (These can also be known as ‘knowledge organisers’ or ‘100% sheets’) As Joe Kirby from Michaela Community School explains here, they “organise all the most vital, useful and powerful knowledge on a single page.” In this post, we explain why we think that they are essential.
Why do we value knowledge?
We know that an accumulation of knowledge has many benefits. One is that it aids reading comprehension. Reading comprehension may seem like just a skill, but it is much easier to understand a text if you have the associated background knowledge. A student with an understanding of the complexities of rugby will understand a difficult passage in that domain where they might struggle with a similarly complex passage on crocodiles or isotopes. By pre-teaching some of the prerequisite background knowledge in a unit, we can aid in comprehension.
Having knowledge stored in long term memory also frees up our working memory. Our working memory capacity is finite, which means that we can only juggle so many different ideas in our heads at once. The more knowledge that is stored in our long term memory, the less that has to be held in our working memory, allowing more cognitive capacity to think about the topic at hand. Think of the difference between a student who has memorised their times tables versus one who has not. The latter has to use vital cognitive resources working out the individual calculations.
Interestingly, the more knowledge we have, the more knowledge we can get. This is known as the ‘Matthew effect’, so named because of the Bible passage Matthew 25:29: “For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
What about the myth that we can just google things, so why do we need lists of knowledge? That argument doesn’t really hold up, because you need some key knowledge just to even google something and then you need knowledge to process the results.
Why Knowledge Navigators?
It is one thing to say that we should build knowledge, but it is often difficult to curate the knowledge necessary for optimal performance. That’s why our teachers start with the end – what knowledge is a pre-requisite for understanding this topic? What knowledge will enable them to offer complex responses? What background knowledge is important in order for this information to stick and for them to accumulate new knowledge? We can’t choose every possible piece of knowledge that exists, just the most judicious.
The best knowledge navigators are quizzable, so can be used as simple quizzes in lessons. Also, homework can take the form of a quiz, making it an efficient use of students’ and teachers’ time. Students can also develop ways of self-quizzing. In fact, quizzing is one of the simplest and most beneficial forms of studying, because of the testing effect – the testing effect is the idea that we are more likely to remember things when we are made to retrieve the information from our long term memory.
We are still exploring the best ways to maximise the benefits and we acknowledge that our Knowledge Navigators can always benefit from improvement, but if you want to teach in a school that values knowledge, then have a look at our vacancies here. (Currently Maths and Science 2ic 30/4/18)