Knowledge organisers: why just knowledge?

I have been pondering on knowledge organisers since reading this:

What I like about these knowledge organisers:

  • The clarity and specificity
  • The ability to pre-plan
  • The testability
  • The cultural capital

What I am unsure about:

  • What knowledge is selected as important vs what is left out
  • The rigidity
  • The apparent lack of student agency
  • Why only knowledge?
  • The potential lack of multicultural capital

I discovered that Anthony Radice @AnthonyRadice1 is developing a knowledge organiser approach using Q&As, which he kindly shared early versions of and which appealed as a format to me more than the ‘here are the answers’ lists. So I thought I’d have a go.

When I started writing some draft knowledge organisers based on Anthony’s Q&A approach, I found that I naturally drifted towards the progression that would happen in my class questioning, from factual, through process-based questions, to metacognition questions and those linking to real life outcomes or applications.

In other words, if you can learn knowledge in this way, why can’t you learn processes (note – in discussion with @JamesTheo he described these as ‘procedural knowledge’ which I liked) or metacognitive approaches?

I thought, rather than provide the completed Q&As for pre-learning, why not set the Qs as research HW for the students themselves? We can then check and correct  the answers in DIRT weekly, throw in starter Qs at random every lesson from the Qs already researched and have mid / end of unit tests comprising answers from the research HW across the term. The final week’s HW could even be the students themselves setting their own research Qs based on areas of interest from the unit.

This ‘flipped learning’ then enables more focus in class on perfecting the key processes in reading, writing and oracy, as long as the accuracy of factual knowledge is checked.

I realise there may be disadvantages in moving away from the clarity and simplicity of the knowledge organiser, but this is my first draft of what something along the lines of ‘knowledge, research, process and metacognition’ organiser might look like.. Hmmm. So maybe it isn’t really a knowledge organiser any more?

I would really appreciate constructive feedback, bearing in mind this is all a work in progress as I approach the re-planning of KS3, not anything like a definitive or final answer. Hopefully the transparency of process may be useful for some and I have found twitter feedback to be incredibly valuable so far.

Here’s the link:

I would also like to link to Kris Boulton’s Knowledge Frameworks blog, which has fed in to my thinking:


3 thoughts on “Knowledge organisers: why just knowledge?

  1. Looking back over the series of lessons with my Year 7 group I feel a great sense of satisfaction having achieved a good rapport with the students whilst also leading them on a journey of exploration and discovery. Perhaps they will not recall the intricacies of states of matter, or how particles behave when they are heated, which affects how the different states change and morph from one to another and back again. However I hope that they will look back and be able to use the new ways in which they have learnt to learn – perhaps they may not look back, but instead might just use their learning of learning unconsciously – now that would be an achievement worth reflecting on.
    Now I am new to this game of teaching, well new in the sense of being a teacher in a school – but over my lifetime I have taught, and have been taught – not all of it good and not all of it bad – but teaching and be taught are two areas I have experience in. Much in the same way as I discussed in the very first assignment I can now look back and reflect on those times I recall being taught well, being taught poorly and how I can now appreciate the thought processes that may have gone in to both of those imposters. Now I can look back and reflect on my fledgling teaching and know the thought processes that went in to all my lessons, whether they ended up being good or bad is something I have reflected on and must continue to reflect upon in order that I can improve all the aspects of my teaching.
    Now being reflective is something I have done to a greater or lesser extent over most of my professional life – reflecting on my own personal and professional development; reflecting professionally on the many and varied projects I have been involved in; reflecting on how the two can be best managed in order to achieve the optimum result. Unknowingly I swayed towards the Kolb four stage model very early in my career, it made sense to me, it could, rather conveniently, be started, or indeed finished, at any point of the cycle and then revisited at a more convenient time. It is a bit black and white though, with very little opportunity to stray or divert ones thoughts – Graham Gibbs offers a more flexible and personalised approach, a more ‘touchy/feely’ process if you will.
    Throughout the development and delivery of the set of lessons outlined in part 1 I spent a great deal of time considering my own, personal reasons for teaching the way I was and I guess it was the ‘touchy/feely’ part of Gibbs cycle that made me realise that I shouldn’t be focusing on me – but actually on the students. Perhaps this also made me feel somewhat cynical of the process which I am going through and created a thought process about which I actually felt quite uncomfortable reflecting on. That the focus of what I was doing should be me was all wrong – my focus should have been on the students and providing the absolute best for them. Yes there is the First Aid Emergency scenario to consider – ‘Is it safe to enter?’ – but once that decision has been made and you are in the thick of it then ensuring that the victims receive the best help they can to ensure they survive is tantamount.
    ‘Is that where I am going wrong?’ was my next thought – ‘Am I over thinking all of this?’ ‘Is there an easier way to achieve the process of passing on experience, developing learning and imparting knowledge?’ Plenty of people have written books about it, and made a pretty penny I suspect (There I go being all cynical again) but have they not lost track of what it is they set out to do? I guess I find myself returning to one of the thoughts I had at the outset and which I alluded to in my first assignment?
    I picked up a copy of The Times Educational Supplement in the first couple of weeks at college and one article stood out to me. In it the author was acknowledging that there appeared, in his opinion, to be a push towards establishments producing teachers who fit the Ofsted mould. However he then went on to point out that Ofsted were actually positively encouraging, supporting and acknowledging diversity and plurality of teaching styles
    …, a variety of approaches helps us to promote educational progress, and avoid professional stagnation. The best teachers exhibit a constant drive to improve what they are doing through innovation. In the 2000’s there was a sense that we were heading for some kind of “end of history” moment in teaching, where the orthodox methods of the time would become the only game in town. Allowing a greater variety of teaching styles promotes personal autonomy, which incentivises staff to improve things themselves and to do so in their way. (Tom Finn-Kelcey 2014, p.2)
    Every teacher has their own preferred way of teaching, their own chosen way of implementing behaviour management policies and their own way of displaying achievement and accomplishment by their pupils; but I get this nagging thought that every teacher then has to justify why they have made those choices and who’s teaching philosophy that sits in line with. In the same way that we know which friend is best to turn to when the boiler is playing up, which of our colleagues may be best to advise us on holidaying in the Iberian peninsula, etc. we must also do that within our chosen profession.
    Ensuring that we, as teachers, maintain diversity in our approaches, sources, research, delivery and assessment will ensure that every child receives the maximum opportunity to succeed. By providing suitably differentiated learning is, in my opinion and upon reflection, the most appropriate course of action; not simply by providing a differentiated level of task but also providing a differentiated method of sharing the learning, providing a differentiated way of presenting the learning to the student and then ensuring that any method of assessment is differentiated accordingly all need to be considered, decided upon and effectively actioned.
    I believe that through the course of lessons I have recorded in my journal that i have taken time to do all of the above and through my own observations and those of the host teacher I have been able to structure the learning appropriately and according to each students ability whilst also considering the group as a whole.
    Brookfield attempts to approach the above – however I would argue that the four considerations he advises be intertwined wherever and whenever possible and to always include the point of view of our learners. taking this on personally one must always remember that, even as teachers, we are still learners, and that any opportunity to develop our own learning must also be considered, reflected and when appropriate actioned.
    So looking back through this and my experience; what have I learned about diversity and differentiation? I guess the bottom line is that there is always cause to reflect, to consider, to weigh up want went well and what didn’t. By all means dwell on what didn’t go well, but don’t get hung up on it; ask for advice, help, assistance; but don’t always give up on something because it didn’t work at that time, with that group, on that day. Always be prepared to try it again in a different circumstance – look at the bigger picture and remember that students have a multitude of other strings to their bow, so don’t remain plucking at the wrong one, or indeed plucking at the right one but in the wrong way.
    I, rather confidently, started opened and closed my ‘Reflective Commentary on Placement One’ paraphrasing Eric Morecambe and I feel that it still sums up both where I feel that I am at and that, if truth be told, every single teacher who has ever taught is at – I think you will find that I was using all the right theories, but not necessarily in the right places…
    Will that scenario ever change? I doubt it, but through reflection I hope to be able to optimise the use of the theories and to be more flexible in adapting them to the situation..


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