Declarative & Procedural Knowledge: Differences & Uses

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  • 0:04 What Is Knowledge?
  • 0:45 Declarative Knowledge
  • 1:25 Procedural Knowledge
  • 2:31 Procedural &…
  • 3:02 Demonstrating Each Type
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has a Doctorate of Education and over 20 years of experience teaching psychology and math related courses at the university level.

What day is it? How do you tie a bow? These questions inquire into two different types of knowledge. This lesson reviews the uses of and differences between declarative and procedural knowledge.

What Is Knowledge?

You've decided to have a game night with your friends, and someone has suggested charades. The point of the game is to get your team to guess a phrase through your actions. Your first card is ''How to ride a bike''; you nail it! So easy!! You act out riding a bike, and everyone guesses immediately. Your second card is ''D-Day was on June 6, 1944.'' Whoa! Not so easy. How do you act out a date? You fumble around with some random movements. Eventually, your team gives up.

This game illustrates the two types of knowledge we have: declarative and procedural. So what are declarative and procedural knowledge? Let's go on a journey to find out.

Declarative Knowledge

In the previous game, do you think your team would have been able to get the second answer if you had been able to say ''When was D-Day?'' Most likely they would have. That's because this is an example of declarative knowledge.

Declarative knowledge can be thought of as 'knowledge about' or answers to 'WH- questions.' Categories of declarative knowledge are facts, world or personal history, and rules for mathematics operations. A key feature of declarative knowledge is that it is easy to express declarative knowledge in the form of words or symbols. Declarative knowledge is explicit, which means you know that you know it. You are consciously aware of your understanding of declarative information.

Procedural Knowledge

Procedural knowledge is knowing how to do something. Think of the word 'procedural;' its root is 'procedure,' which is an action. Some examples of procedural knowledge are how to drive a car and how to throw a boomerang correctly. A key feature of procedural knowledge is that it is hard to explain verbally.

So why was it so easy to do the bicycle card in charades? That's because riding a bike is a procedure; something you can do. Charades is a 'doing' game in that you must act out the actions of what you are trying to get your partner to guess. Acting out is a visual demonstration and a great way to show procedural knowledge.

What is very interesting is that once procedural knowledge is gained, it tends to become implicit, which means that you are no longer consciously aware of the knowledge. For actions, some people refer to this as muscle memory because it's like your muscles remember how to do something even when you aren't aware of how you know. ''You never forget how to ride a bike'' is such a common phrase because the procedural knowledge needed to ride a bike becomes purely implicit after mastery is accomplished.

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