Education for the 21st Century: Balancing Content Knowledge with Skills

Daniel Willingham, Britannica Blog, Dec 08, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I wish I had the complete picture of where Daniel Willingham wants to go with his theorizing (he is widely cited in the right-wing edublogosphere). It would help me understand why he makes asserts about knowledge and learning that are, on the face of them, false.


Such as: "Shallow understanding requires knowing some facts. Deep understanding requires knowing the facts AND knowing how they fit together, seeing the whole." I struggle to think of definitions of 'deep' and 'shallow' that are not circular here, and I have no hope of comprehending what he means by 'fit together'. But by any common understanding of 'deep' people typically mean something like 'abstract principles independent of particular facts.


And such as: "And skills like 'analysis' and 'critical thinking' are tied to content; you analyze history differently than you analyze literature, a point I've emphasized here." Willingham has a unique understanding of 'analysis' and 'critical thinking'. Because, from where I sit, a proposition is a proposition, whether expressed in history or literature, and modus ponens still holds among such propositions no matter where they're expressed.
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