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Know something? What are you going to DO about it?

Ah the learning hierarchy of DIKW! Most educators should have been exposed to this class of learning models at some point or other. So why is it we find so many learning objectives that focus on knowing/understanding?

Let’s consider the different levels of this generic learning model and why knowing is just not good enough.


I use the definition of data as “chunks of facts” or “raw facts” like words without a sentence that by themselves, aren’t particularly valuable. Consider the following statements:

  • 826 kilojoules per cup
  • 23.9 grams of carbs
  • 1200 calories per day
  • 3 kilometres burns 200 calories
  • walking rate is 4.6 kilometres per hour

Right now these facts are useless. I could be talking about one topic or five different topics.


When I start to give this data context, it becomes information. For instance:

  • Gelati has 826 kilojoules per cup and 23.9 grams of carbohydrates.
  • A 1300 NET calorie diet will help an overweight, sedentary professional lose at least 1 to 2 kilos per week.
  • In order to break even on the consumption of a cup of gelati, one would need to walk at least 3 kilometres at a moderate pace for about 45 minutes, shorter if doing interval training.

So now the data has taken shape into information. It has context and (for me) relevance.


Once I memorise it and am able to recall it and share it with friends, family and colleagues I have knowledge (and if shared too often, a reputation for being tiresome). But knowing all of this isn’t the end game. Because after all, I know all this and what do I do far too regularly?

What’s important is the peak of the pyramid of learning – being able to ACT on the knowledge unprompted: WISDOM.


Knowledge is NEVER the end game. I know gelati and a few other foods are sabotaging my efforts at dropping a dress size or two. But unless I act on it and either cut down on those foods or step up my exercise, I’m not going to reap the benefits of that knowledge.

Don’t get me wrong – underpinning knowledge is valuable. We have to have knowledge of road rules and know what the various pedals and knobs do inside a car are before we can drive.

But we don’t expect that all drivers know the history of the automobile industry, the inner mechanics of the internal combustion engine or how to win an auto race. Drivers get the information they need to act on in a reasonable range of driving circumstances relevant to the type of license, state/territory and country in which they will be driving.

We then ensure they get the opportunities to apply that knowledge in gradual stages until they demonstrate they can act on it at an appropriate level.

So, in your workplace (or those of your clients), you may have subject matter experts and facilitators telling you that staff need to KNOW or UNDERSTAND a stack of content. Now that you know that knowledge isn’t the end game – what are you going to do about that?

As for me, I’m just grateful the nearest gelati outlet is a 20 kilometre walk away…


DIKW Pyramid Adler, Tuan, Bell, Cooley and various

“DSC_4276.JPG” (image of gelati) CC (by) Banzai Hiroaki

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