Is Your Course Missing "The 3 Knowns"?

Point 1: Known Knowns

Point 2: Known Unknowns

Point 3: Unknown Unknowns

What are Known Knowns?

Known Knowns refers to what your learners already understand about a subject. For instance, in a sales strategies course, assume that all the learners come to the course with the ability to describe the product line in a 3-minute pitch (Known Known). The learners will use this ability to give a 3-minute pitch as the starting point to add to their knowledge.

Why do you need Known Knowns?

Not identifying the Known Knowns means the learner has no basis for gaining a new perspective or adding another skill. In other words, not being aware of Known Knowns in the classroom would be like sending the learner through a fully stocked buffet without a plate. Having the Known Knowns in the front of the mind means the learner is focused on the subject. Focus is a critical first step in experiencing a meaningful learning process.

What are Known Unknowns?

Known Unknowns refers to what your learners have identified as what they know and what they do NOT know about a subject. For instance, a Known Unknown in a sales strategies course occurs when a learner can demonstrate how to handle an objection related to price (Known Known), but not one related to quality (Known Unknown). This example shows that the learner is aware of the knowledge gap, which becomes the learning goal.

Why do you need Known Unknowns?

The action of separating what a learner knows from what he or she doesn't know allows the learner to easily target the new knowledge and make it meaningful. Having a list of Known Unknowns can serve as a way for the learner to measure progress in class and then reinforce that knowledge on the job. Not making the distinction in class would create confusion, just like driving a car and coming to a traffic light with three red lights and no yellow or green ones. Eventually there would be a huge, confusing mess at that intersection, just like there would be a mess in a class without Known Unknowns.

What are Unknown Unknowns?

Unknown Unknowns refers to the fact that your learners -- do not know -- what they don't know. Let me say that again because it's the most critical part of this post. Sometimes you don't know -- what you don't know. For instance, say a learner in the sales strategies class has never hit the $1MM sales target. So, it's impossible for that person to understand the work, dedication, discipline, and effort required to make it to that point. In other words, discussing strategies for servicing accounts after passing the $1MM mark wouldn't make sense to that person because the subject is an Unknown Unknown.

Why do you need Unknown Unknowns?

As the instructor, you lead the learners through their own Unknown Unknown learning zones. For instance, if you're redesigning a bathroom at your house or apartment and you've never done it before -- you're in for many surprises, also called Unknown Unknowns. When I did that project for the first time, I had no idea that there were 72 kinds of tiles. The number of tiles was an Unknown Unknown for me because I didn't even think that I would face that situation.

So to summarize:

1. Known Knowns -- What you know about a subject

2. Known Unknowns -- What you don't know about a subject

3. Unknown Unknowns -- You don't know that you don't know something about a subject

4. Unknown Unknowns >> become >> Known Knowns + Known Unknowns

#Knowledge #Learning #Teaching

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