Organizational Learning & Knowledge Management LO23955

From: Winfried Dressler (
Date: 02/11/00

Replying to LO23909 --

Patrick Sue wrote:

>In other words, the students have memorized enough explicit
>knowledge that they can apply to taking exams. But, not
>internalizing this into tacit knowledge in THEIR heads, means
>that they don't really know much about the subject they were
>supposedly studying.

This is interesting.

My associations about the process as triggered by the word 'internalize',
in the context of your mail, is as following: There is somewhere, e.g. in
a book which the student reads, explicit knowledge. The student makes
sufficient contact with the knowledge for the exam - a process you call
'memorizing'. But although this is a necessary first step, a second step
need to follow in which the student will have to gain ownership. You refer
to this second step by using the word 'internalizing'.

With this, you may articulate a learning theory, stating that learning is
memorizing plus internalizing. This learning theory may compete with the
students learning theory, which equals learning with memorizing.

Which theory will win the competition?

I think the clue to this question is not in the theory but in you and the
student and how the respective theory is rooted in your or the students
core of knowledge: experiences and tacit knowledge. (I see tacit knowledge
as an emergent quality feeded by the unceasing flow of experiences.)

Let us examine a scenario (meaning that when I write 'you', I am not
making assumptions about Patrick! You, Patrick and other readers may
relate to the scenario as you wish. Creating other scenarios to convey
alternative views is very much wellcome!):

The student has again and again experienced that the pointer 'learning'
has always been used to refer to a memorizing process. These experiences
are connected with a field of related experiences like not-fun, success in
exams, punish-otherwise etc. For the student, theory and practice fit very
well, s/he would say 'I know what I know'.

Compared to the student, you have made some shifts in values and concepts:
'Learning' should be reframed in the broader context including some
'internalizing' in order to master a subject and not only an exam.

Here I would like to split the scenario in two alternatives:

First alternative: Your shift is of a strong kind. With this I mean that
mastering a subject is a real and rich experience for you, you have built
up a broad core of tacit knowledge on it. From this you have derived a
formal concept called 'internalize'. In this case, theory and practice fit
together as for the student but on another level.

In competing with the studends theory you will either have to point him to
similar experiences of mastering a subject which he may have beside the
memorizing experiences. Then the studend may recognise it and at least
know what you are talking about. Or if the student severely lacks
experiences of mastering a subject, you will have to feed him. You can do
so guided by your own experiental, tacit and formal knowledge. I am not
sure, but I think that having such an overview over a subject like
'internalize' that you are able to feed others through experiences so that
they finally learn to master the subject ('internalize' in this case) self
is what At de Lange called sapient level of knowledge.

In his scenario and alternative, you have a fair chance to act as a
midwife to the learning of the student, winning the competition, which is
in fact win-win for both of you.

The second alternative: The shift to add 'internalize' to 'learning' is
what I may call a weak shift. In a weak shift, your own theory and
practice of learning is that of memorizing like that of the student. But
with your experiences you know that memorizing does not lead to mastering
a subject. So you have experience of a gap, yet too little experiences on
how to close the gap. This situation is full of tension.

In the first alternative of a strong shift, this tension lead to a
sequence of experiences, tacit knowledge, the articulation of
'internalize' and finally the new art - theory and practice - of this
articulation as a whole. In this second alternative the gap is not filled
based on living through experiences but based on what I may call building
a gap closing opinion. 'Internalizing' then is a pointer refering to this
opinion. Much effort of thinking and intelligence may be used to
strengthen this opinion. But it will remain what it is: an opinion, a
theory without practice.

What will happen know, when you meet the student? I guess you will have no
chance. The best that can happen to you and your opinion and the worst for
the student is that he adopts your opinion. The deathly experience he will
make is, that gaps hurt and need to be closed this way - opposite of
personal mastery, broken personality. More likely in the adolescense age
of a student is fortunately, that he will recognise memorizing as a poor
practice and use it only as less as he is forced to, starting to fill the
gap not with opinion but experiences which he may call in contrast to the
dark 'learning' experiences 'have fun'.

Hopefully he will meet a midwife some day helping with the strong shift
when he will be born to the knowledge that there is another 'learning'
including something he may or may not call 'internalize' which is a
greater form of having fun than any other before.

Liebe Gruesse,



"Winfried Dressler" <>

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