Is ‘understanding’ a thing?

Clio et cetera

We hear a lot about ‘understanding’ in education: it is a common curriculum and assessment term, particularly in ‘generic’ models such as Bloom’s Taxonomy. It is very common for people to talk about ‘conceptual understanding’ in a wide range of subjects: in history education the idea of unpacking ‘conceptual understanding’ has been the major focus of history education researchers over the last couple of decades.

But what actually is understanding?

Sadly, the Oxford English Dictionary is not too helpful here, providing 14 major definitions of the term, and none of these terms seem to get that close to what those working in education mean when they start talking about ‘understanding’ or ‘conceptual understanding’. So let’s pick this apart in a bit more detail. In this blog post I’m going to look at three common definitions of ‘understanding’ and I’m going to take these apart a bit in order to suggest…

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