Promoting Access to Knowledge, Strategy, & Disposition

Just a few words on this article by Richard Prawat (1989).  Prawat is making an argument about acccess, which he defines as “the ability to draw on or utilize one’s intellectual resources in situations where those resources are relevant” (p. 1).  He discusses three major sets of variables identified by the cognitive psychologists: knowledge base, strategy, and disposition.  These variables are affected, Prawat argues, by two factors: organization and awareness.  I want to discuss briefly his three variables, which overlap to some extent with knowing, doing, and becoming.

Knowledge base: In this category reside “several overlapping but distinguishable types of knowledge,” including formal and informal knowledge, conceptual and procedural knowledge, and concrete or representational knowledge (p. 2).  Organization affects knowledge base as teachers make linkages and connectedness between topics and ideas.  Good teaching, Prawat argues, fosters “relationship understanding” (p. 6).  Awareness likewise affects the learner’s knowledge base, and for this reason Prawat suggests techniques of verbalization; writing about content; classroom dialogue; conditionalizing knowledge; and broadening the problem-solving purview.

Strategy: Prawat defines strategy as “a broad range of routines that facilitate both knowledge acquisition and utilization” (p. 3).  This category seems to overlap with “skills” or “doing” in my mind, though I’m sure he sees distinctions.  He feels that organization affects strategy because one must negotiate a trade-off between general and specific strategies.

Dispositions: Prawat offers the definition given by Katz for dispositions: “‘habits of mind’ (Katz & Raths, 1985)” (p. 3).  This is a term we have interchanged with becoming (for lack of a better word, because becoming does seem to be more than only dispositions).  Here Prawat differentiates between actions (an aspects of strategy) and action identity (an aspect of disposition).

Prawat, R. S. (1989). Promoting access to knowledge, strategy, and disposition in students: A research synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 59(1): 1-41. doi:10.2307/1170445.


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