The Six Facets of Understanding
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.
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 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 with. 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 article.
When one can 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.
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 or information relates or is similar to other things which are fact or non-fact.
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
In having a perspective, a person can see the big picture of an idea. One can be critical by seeing and hearing diverse points of view. By doing this, you discover the strengths and weaknesses of proposed ideas.
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.
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 experiences in life.
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?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2016 Paul Richard Kuehn