Teach the Earth > Classroom Observation Project > Creating a Student-Centered Classroom > Procedural Knowledge

Procedural Knowledge

What is procedural knowledge and how does it affect learning?

This theme measures what students do in the classroom to enhance their learning. Lessons that engage students and varied opportunities for making predictions, estimations, or hypotheses and designing ways to test them, help students to understand the nature of scientific inquiry. Through practice and reflection, students are able to apply these skills in new contexts and recognize their own critical thinking abilities. The Cutting Edge Metacognition module gives strategies for fostering metacognitive habits of mind in students. The Pedagogy in Action module on the Process of Science provides guidance and examples for incorporating the process of science into the classroom.

Characteristics/examples of classes with low and high procedural knowledge

Several aspects of procedural knowledge can be related to actions instructors take within the Lesson Design and Propositional Knowledge themes. For example, in a class exhibiting high Propositional Knowledge, the teacher may include elements of abstraction in the lesson, whereas in Procedural Knowledge, the teacher thinks about how the students will represent phenomena, which could be illustrated with a variety of abstractions (e.g., drawing graphs, making sketches, generating diagrams).

Many classes that feature active learning can still fail to fully realize Procedural Knowledge opportunities to enhance learning. For instance, few instructors ask students to reflect on their learning; that is, they don't ask students to assess their understanding of critical concepts or to determine which of the concepts were the most important. Classes that exhibit a focus on Procedural Knowledge include opportunities for students to participate in thought-provoking activities (e.g., predictions, estimations, hypotheses) rather than assignments that only require simple yes/no answers. For example, an instructor could discuss an equation for determining exponential decay and then have students work together to use the equation to determine the age of the oldest rock on Earth. Procedural knowledge could be further activated in such an assignment by asking students if their answer is a reasonable age for the planet. Classes that discuss weather phenomena can introduce multiple representations of data in forms such as maps, graphs, diagrams, photographs, physical gestures, and short videos and incorporate some of these into exercises requiring the interpretation of data. For example, an instructor teaching an atmospheric science course asked students to plot sun angle vs. azimuth for a given location at different seasons.

Consider structuring your class so that it:

Tips and examples for improving procedural knowledge

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