Lionni’s story Fish is Fish (see below) really emphasizes that we construct new knowledge based on the current knowledge we possess. As teachers we have to remember that we are often times looking from the frog’s perspective as we teach our students. How can we expect students to fully understand new knowledge without giving them some sort of foundation? There are so many different factors that affect the prior knowledge that our students enter our classrooms with. How they grow up and the environment they are exposed to gives them certain predispositions.
Growing up in Michigan with an English speaking family, one of the first and best ways that I could clearly see this phenomenon described in Fish is Fish in myself was by living in a foreign country. To say studying abroad was eye opening would be understating it. I was in a way forced to look at my own predispositions, bias, and worldview smack in the face and question my particular ways of doing things. As a student, I had multiple years of what I would consider successful Spanish culture and language study prior to my departure for living in Costa Rica. As with the fish, I thought I understood everything pretty well. My “flying fish” were only erased and corrected after having the experience of connecting with the culture and language on a daily basis. I am grateful for the experience every day and it is why I continue to be advocate for getting outside of your comfort zone in order to truly learn something.
Taking this story into consideration:
Learning is the process of constructing new knowledge by arriving at understanding based on prior knowledge.
Understanding is the ability to meaningfully apply and demonstrate knowledge.