Knowledge is the Foundation of Learning

“Although debate continues in the educational arena over the importance of acquiring knowledge versus “learning how to think,” the Brain-Targeted Teaching (BTT) Model is built upon the assumption that the latter is in many ways dependent on the former. In other words, in order to be effective thinkers, children must possess the background knowledge needed to be literate in today’s society.” (Hardiman, p. 95)

The pendulum swings back and forth in education from one extreme to another. Forever the same battle seems to be waged, but on different fronts: basic skills versus higher level thinking. This debate is played out in specific terms in things like the whole language versus phonics debate, but also in more general terms, with some education stakeholders calling for a “back to basics” approach to education while others are demanding that schools focus instead on higher level thinking schools.

This makes me think of the changes that I have seen in Math instruction in the primary and elementary years. When I first started, students had workbooks with very sequential activities. Teachers supplemented these workbooks with in-class instruction and various hands-on activities. Students were expected to practise a new skills many times. For example, when the book covered a new skills like subtraction with borrowing, the book would then give twenty to fifty practise questions.

Then, a couple years later we transitioned to a new textbook series. The practise questions were gone and replaced with word problems. Many students – and parents – were lost. I heard over and over “what is this question asking?” Students were being challenged by the word problems, but they lacked the basic arithmetic skills to solve the questions, and many lacked the language skills to translate the question into the required numbers and operations. Teachers started allowing students to use calculators and stopped stressing, or even teaching, how to manually calculate the answers. Of course some teachers supplemented the program with worksheets to provide additional practise, but many did not. Some teachers started to think that they were no longer required to teach arithmetic, that it had been replaced by problem solving.

I remember back to my Bachelor of Education and learning about Bloom’s Taxonomy: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. A simplified version I also remember was knowledge and everything above knowledge.

The pyramid of Bloom’s Taxonomy is built on a foundation of knowledge. The top of the pyramid is the star of the show, but it is the very bottom pieces that are the most important. They hold everything else up. The Great Pyramid of Giza has been missing its peak for years, but it’s still a “Great” pyramid.

Evaluation without knowledge is prejudice, superstition, or both.

Hardiman, M. (2012). The brain-targeted teaching model for 21st century schools. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.

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A lesson learned

I wrote up a whole post yesterday and today about the importance of being seen as nice by your students, and then when I clicked “publish” it disappeared, and does not seem recoverable.

The lesson I learned is to write my blog posts in Google Docs – which has a terrific autosave function – and then copy and paste them into WordPress. I haven’t lost this much work in years. I use Google Docs for almost everything. Partly because the work can be accessed from any device, can be shared and worked on by an number of people, and partly because I almost never lose work because of the awesome autosave.

When I think of “disruptive” technologies, Google Docs are one of the most significant. I use Google Docs for:

-Tracking student attendance, work habits and participation (Google Forms)

-Financial planning (spreadsheets)

-Resume (Documents) and supporting documents such as transcripts

-Tracking office referrals and behaviour incidents (Google Forms)

-Word processing

-Keeping track of my hot tub test results (Google Forms)

-Tracking the CD’s in my 300 disc CD changer (Spreadsheet)

-Creating presentations

-Storing and sharing important files, such my family trees

The list goes on and on. I also store all my photos with picasaweb for $20 a year – a legacy storage plan I’ve had for a few years.

I also use Google Docs for education at the school I recently left. Teachers can sign their students up using a Google Form. I think bulk upload the new users. The students get 25 gigabytes of free storage and access to most Google apps, along with an email account that is easy to remember (

Students can create, edit, share, collaborate, hand in, receive and incorporate peer and teacher feedback, all without printing. I love it!


I am a teacher. I have been a teacher for 13 years. I’ve taught from Kindergarten to Grade 12, and I am currently teaching an alternate program for Grade 8 – 10 students in Hope, British Columbia, Canada.

In 2000 I graduated from a UBC Bachelor of Education program and started teaching in Hope. In 2006 I graduated with a Masters of Eduction in Educational Administration from the University of Calgary and in 2009 I received a Bachelor of Arts, English Major, from Thompson Rivers University.

I purchased this domain name – my name – with the intention of using it as an online resume. I have changed my mind, though I may tuck my resume away on a page here just in case. Today, as I was reading a new book from Mariale Hardiman, The Brain Targeted Teaching Model for 21st Century Schools , I thought “I need a place to reflect on what I am learning.” I have often used Google Documents for this type of activity, but I thought that this time I would try something different and start to blog my reflections on teaching and learning. Maybe by writing I will be able to remember and apply the insights I gain from reading.

I am hoping someone reads this, and that I can start – or at least participate in – a dialogue. However, I am also writing this for myself, in the hopes that I might be able to better assess, analyze, synthesize and evaluate what I learn about teaching and learning. I hope to improve my practise.


Hardiman, M. (2012). The brain-targeted teaching model for 21st century schools. Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin.