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The Six Facets of Understanding

Updated on December 29, 2017
Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul has spent many years teaching EFL and ESL. He taught EFL in Taiwan during the 70s, ESL in the U.S., and most recently EFL in Thailand.

Understanding

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Many people are often asking students and non-students whether they understand. Their questions could pertain to a lesson in school or an article in a general newspaper.

What does it mean, however, to understand, for example, the Second World War or the recent political debates on television?

In this article, I list and explain the six facets of understanding which are necessary for everyone to know.

Knowing

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The Six Facets of Understanding

If you ask a person on the street about the meaning of understanding, you will probably get the response that understanding means knowing. This doesn't really answer the question because we still haven't spelled out what it means to understand or to know.

A few years ago, I attended a seminar on student learning while teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in Bangkok, Thailand. In the seminar, six facets of understanding were introduced which I have studied and am now in agreement. These facets include: being able to explain; being able to interpret; you can apply; you have a perspective; being able to empathize, and having self-knowledge. Each one of these facets will be explained in this hub.

1. Explaining

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When one is able to explain, for instance, a novel, news article, or mathematical and scientific principle, you can clearly state the key idea and answer all of the essential information questions such as who, what, when, where, how, and why. In being able to explain, you can also sequence events and show the interrelation of all parts.

2. Interpreting

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In interpreting a news article or math formula, for example, one can readily explain the meaning of an idea in words or symbols. Furthermore, one can answer the question of how some idea of information relates or is similar to other things which are fact or non-fact.

3. Applying

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After being able to explain and interpret an idea, the next step is being able to apply the idea or concept to everyday events. You do this by effectively using and adopting an idea or principle in diverse contexts. An example might be in applying the principle of supply and demand to the price of fruit now found in the market.

4. Having a Perspective

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In having a perspective, a person is able to see the big picture of an idea. One is able to be critical by seeing and hearing diverse points of view. By doing this, you discover strengths and weaknesses of proposed ideas.

5. Empathizing

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Following having a perspective, the next facet of understanding is being able to empathize. When empathizing, we answer questions such as "What would it be like?" and "How might we feel?'" We also question how we can reach an understanding of something which we consider being foreign to our personal experiences.

6. Self-Knowledge

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The final facet of understanding is having self-knowledge. This involves metacognitive awareness or being aware of how you think. You do this by reflecting on learning and life experiences. A person also examines how his or her views are shaped by experience.

Conclusion

Before we can truly say that we understand something, it is necessary to question whether we have examined the six facets of understanding and can satisfactorily utilize all of them. Understanding is far more than knowing and entails being able to explain, interpret, apply, have a perspective, being able to empathize, and having self-knowledge.

Facets of Understanding

Which is the most important facet of understanding?

See results

© 2016 Paul Richard Kuehn

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    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Au fait, Thank you very much for your great comments. I appreciate you sharing and pinning this hub. BTW, did you vote in the Republican primary or are you voting in the Democratic primary?

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      2 years ago from North Texas

      Well written and presented as always. If everyone did their homework more than half of the problems in this world would not exist. Sadly everyone is not equally capable of understanding certain concepts -- and that isn't anyone's fault. Sharing with my followers and pinning to my 'Education' board.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thank you once again for your comment, f_hruz. I appreciate your interest in this article.

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 

      2 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Thanks for your reply, Paul ... I find it especially gratifying when people gain the kind of understanding for an issue during a discussion, lecture or presentation, which let's them formulate highly focused questions to advance the discourse in the right direction and make a greater understanding and a deeper comprehension of the matter possible.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Thank you very much for your insightful comments. I agree that critical thought is necessary for understanding.

    • f_hruz profile image

      f_hruz 

      2 years ago from Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      Understanding usually starts at a common cultural level. It's quite hard to understand or be understood when the language is strange, the dialect is not clear or the value system is vastly different.

      Developing a good common understanding in a specific direction is an educational process best performed in a dialectical environment where critical thought becomes part of the intellectual development without which misguided education can become the basis to self-delusion quite rampantly dispensed in a social environment of institutional superficiality and compulsive consumption so skillfully promoted by highly profitable marketing and PR companies.

      Now try to test your understanding of reality by reflecting on the political theater being presented to us daily ...

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      @RoadMonkey , thank you very much for your comments. I'm glad you found this hub interesting.

    • Paul Kuehn profile imageAUTHOR

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      2 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      @DDE , I'm very happy that you found this hub interesting. Yes, empathizing is so important for understanding. I think that is what made Bill Clinton such a good American President!

    • RoadMonkey profile image

      RoadMonkey 

      2 years ago

      Very interesting. I haven't seen these facets previously and this is a very sound idea and way of presenting this concept.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Hi A very interesting hub! I voted Being able to empathize. The understanding of each is with great explanation but in a simple form.

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