The 4 types of things that can be learned

In my experience, teachers think their course content is really important, and they privilege memorizing content knowledge over other kinds of learning. In order to resist this tendency in my own teaching, I have attempted to categorize everything that can be learned:

Knowledge – rules and expectations, and content and interdisciplinary knowledge, on a spectrum from exposure to deep understanding (what they recall and understand)

Behaviors – impulse control, habits, and mental and kinesthetic skills, on a spectrum from first try to mastery (what they do and can do)

Dispositions – attitudes, identities, and worldviews (how they feel about and approach what they do and avoid)

Connections – applying something learned in one context to another, such as across readings, units, subjects, or domains, or from a classroom to the real world and one’s lived experience, and vice versa

This list is without hierarchy. Even memorization without understanding can have value in preparing students for other learning experiences. What is important to me is balance. Perhaps every lesson should have a learning objective of each type and seek to integrate all four types of learning.


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By Patrick Blim-Hockberger

Greetings! I am a Denver-based music educator specializing in musical creativity and design. At the University of Illinois I earned my Master of Music Education and at Northwestern University I earned my BM in Music Composition and MA in Sound Arts & Industries. At the Chicago Park District I taught preschool music, voice, piano, guitar, and wrote and music directed children’s musicals. Prior to that I interned at 98.7 WFMT, coached middle school track & field, and worked for composer Paul Caldwell at the Youth Choral Theater of Chicago.