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Disciplinary and Substantive Knowledge

Chris Quigley
Posted by Chris Quigley
December 6, 2022

This article was updated in February 2024 to include free downloads (see link at end of article)

Learning is a change to long-term memory, and everything in long-term memory is Knowledge. Types of Knowledge can be categorised in several ways. The most common categorisation involves three types:

Procedural Knowledge: for example, decoding using phonics. The goal of procedural Knowledge is procedural fluency.

Semantic Knowledge involves learning facts and how they relate to other facts. For example, five plus five is ten is a fact, but what makes it semantic Knowledge is when it is associated with the quantity of five and the meaning of the word plus. The goal of semantic Knowledge is effectively grouping facts into a schema. Schema theory states that information becomes Knowledge when grouped into meaningful and usable clusters.

Episodic Knowledge: episodes are the events and activities in which we learn procedural and semantic Knowledge. The goal of episodic Knowledge is to provide appropriate activities to learn procedural and semantic Knowledge.

Two sub-sets of procedural and semantic Knowledge - helpful when considering curriculum subjects - are substantive and disciplinary Knowledge:

Substantive Knowledge: established facts, e.g. the earth is the planet on which we live.

Disciplinary Knowledge: the methods that establish the substantive facts, e.g. observation of the sun, moon and stars, satellite photographs.

Below is a table showing some science examples:


 For a FREE set of examples of disciplinary and substantive knowledge in Geography, click here.

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