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The six facets of understanding

The six facets of understanding
Lobsang molam(mr)
PGT history, TCV gopalpur

Our analysis of " understanding" we treat it as one notion distinct from what we call ' knowledge'. The word understanding is not one achievement but several, and it is shown through different kinds of evidence. The synonyms of understanding are ' insight" and wisdom both clearly different from ( yet somehow related to) knowledge. Students must perform effectively with knowledge to convince teachers that they really understood understanding. So, the argument of performance assessment means, " to apprehend the meaning or import" of an idea. When we think of meaning or import in the broader sense, we refer to ideas like wisdom, the ability to rise above naïve, ill-considered or inexperienced point of view.

We call this ability "perspective" the ability to escape the passions, inclination and dominant opinions of the moment to do what circumspection and reflection reveal to be best. "A failure to understand interpersonally typically involves a failure to consider or imagine there being different points of view, never mind " walking in their shoes".( piaget wryly noted years ago that egocentric persons have only one point of view their.) " Deborah tannens (1990) highly successful book entitled you just don't understand , suggests how interpersonal understanding requires grasping unstated but very real, differing styles and purpose of conversation. A lack of empathic understanding is evident in cross-cultural conflict as revealed in an article in the new york times about a flare up of violence in the middle east.


Both sides were taken aback by the speed and fury with which the ancient hatreds resurfaced, however , and there were some voices predicting that the conflagration would produce a renewed sense that two peoples can not live in such close quarters without coming to some form of understanding.

" we will come to ( the idea of peace) out of fatigue. We will come to this ida out of a very painful understanding that the way to war leads us nowhere"(macfarquhar, 1996,p.A1)


Is there a link between an agreement born of mutual respect with wise perspective and " intellectual" insight into the problem? It is certainly plausible to say that the failures in the middle east policy may be more a function of lack of empathy than any lack of knowledge on everyones part. Perhaps the same is true in school studies. To really understand a novel, a scientific theory, or a period of history you have to have sufficient respect and empathy for the possibility that the author understands something. The same is true in class discussion. Many students sometimes do not " hear" the contributions made by students they disrespected.


In short, sometimes understanding requires detachment; at other times, it require heartfelt solidarity with other people or idea. Understanding is multidimensional and complicated. There are different types of understanding, different methods of understanding and conceptual overlap with other intellectual targets. Because of the complexity of the issue, its makes sense to identity different aspects of understanding . the authors of the book " understanding by design" developed a multifaceted view of what makes up a mature understanding, a six- sided view of the concept. When we truly understand, we


(1) Can explain- via generalizations or principle, providing justified and systematic accounts of phenomena, facts and dates; make insightful connections and provide illuminating examples and illustration.


(2) Can interpret- tell meaningful stories; offer apt translations; provide a revealing historical or personal dimension to ideas and events; make the object of understanding personal or accessible through images anecdotes, analogies and models.


(3) Can apply- effectively use and adapt what we know in diverse and real context we can "do" the subject.


(4) Have perspective- see and hear points of view through critical eyes and ears; see the big picture.


(5) Can empathize- find value in what others might find odd, alien or implausible, perceive sensitively on the basis of prior direct experience.


(6) Have self- knowledge – show metacognitive awareness, perceive the personal style, prejudices, projections and habits of mind that both shape and impede our own understanding; reflect on the meaning of learning and experience.


These facets of understanding are manifestations of transfer ability. A students may have a sophisticated explanation of a theory but not able to apply it, a student many see things from a critical distance but lack empathy. From an assessment perspective, the six facets offer various indicators of windows on understanding. Thus, they can guide the selection and design of assessment to elicits understanding. From a broader educational perspective, the facets suggest a goal: in teaching for transfer, complete and mature understanding ideally involves the full development of all six kinds of understanding.