Knowing & Understanding
It appears to me that knowing and understanding are entirely different kinds of mental happenings. Knowledge is what is measured when we take an exam or a test. We take such exams constantly throughout our schooling. How well we do on these exams determines, many feel, our potential for job success in life.
Our schools generally do not give essay exams. I think writing is the only metric for determining a personís understanding. Personally I find that essay writing is a very important component of understanding. Our schools and colleges place little emphasis on understanding, probably because it is too time consuming and too difficult to teach and to quantify for grading purposes.
I think that Ďpaint-by-numberí and canvas painting might be a useful analogy for comparing knowing and understanding.
One can buy a paint-by-number kit that will contain bottles of different colored paints, some brushes, and a board upon which an image is displayed in outline. Each section of the image is numbered just as the bottles of paint so that the painter dabs on the numbered section of the image the appropriate color of paint.
Comparing paint-by-number work with a canvas painting I think will give an idea of the difference between knowing and understanding. The paint-by-number product is somewhat mechanical while the canvas painting is much more of a work of art in that it is a creative act.
I think that learning how to learn and how to understand is something that comes with the experience of trying to learn. I think that our standard schooling does a marvelous job preparing us to become good producers and voracious consumers. It teaches us what to know and what questions to expect on the next exam. To learn how to learn and how to understand is up to each of us to accomplish after our schooling is finished.
My learning circle goes like this: Reading skills are dependent upon thinking skills, thinking skills are dependent upon writing skills, and writing skills are dependent upon reading skills. We are introduced to all of these skills by our schooling system but the mature development and application of these skills wait our adult years.
I read that Van Gogh commented that a painter must first learn his craft before he can paint well. I think we must learn the craft of learning before we can understand well.