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Part I: Understanding Different Types of Knowledge to Assess

  • Assuming there is coherence across course learning outcomes (CLOs), assessments, and planned learning experiences, the exam results noted in the opening most likely reveal shallow vs deep learning.  In other words, students have processed information such that they can perform at the lower levels of Bloom's Taxonomy (i.e., remember and understand) but not in ways to perform at the higher levels (i.e., apply, analyze, evaluate, and create) (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001; Bloom & Krathwohl, 1956).  Higher levels of critical thinking require conditional knowledge, but often students have only practiced and developed declarative and procedural knowledge (Ambrose, et al., 2010; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000). To address this misalignment, it is important to understand the different types of knowledge reflected in your course content and assessments (see Table 1).
  • Table 1: Three Types of Knowledge

  • Type of Knowledge



    Declarative or

    content knowledge

    knowing what;

    facts and other information that can be declared

    1. Identifying the structure and function of an animal cell.

    2. Describing the difference between an artery and a vein.

    3. Identifying the strengths and challenges of general research design methods (e.g., qualitative, quantitative, or mixed).

    4. Knowing a variety of statistical analyses.

    Procedural or process knowledge

    knowing how;

    being able to work through a process or procedure


    1. Using different types of microscopes to study cells/stains.

    2. Designing a qualitative research study.

    3. Performing a mathematical formula or algorithm.

    Conditional knowledge

    knowing when and why;

    recognizing the conditions under which declarative or procedural knowledge is to be used.

    1. Selecting the correct statistical analysis to analyze a data set based on the research question and other factors.

    2. Developing new policies and/or practices to keep students and staff safe during the pandemic.

  • To Do: 

  • Consider the different types of knowledge presented in your course content and materials. Do your planned learning activities/exercises facilitate the development of each type of knowledge? Most importantly, have you created learning experiences for students that will help them develop conditional knowledge?

  • References: 

    1. Anderson, L.W. & Krathwohl, D.R. (Eds.), et al. (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom's Taxonomy of Educational Objective. In P. W. Airasian, K. A. Cruikshank, R. E. Mayer, P. R. Pintrich, J. Raths, & M. C. Wittrock (Eds.), A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: a revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. New York: Longman.

    2. Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals; Handbook I: Cognitive domain. In M. D. Engelhart, E. J. Furst, W. H. Hill, & D. R. Krathwohl (Eds.), Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals; Handbook I: Cognitive domain. New York: David McKay.

    3. Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000 Eds.). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, DC: National Academies Press; 1st edition.