Knowledge does not fall from the sky.
Paper Flying in Mid Air --- Image by © Sung-Il Kim/Corbis
Someone discovers it!
There are complex processes that are essential to the functioning of each discipline — and they take years to cultivate! How do we help students to build their understanding and use of these processes?
Dr. Lois Lanning’s Structure of Process, the complement to Dr. Erickson’s Structure of Knowledge shows us how. Just as concepts are timeless, abstract, universal ideas that organize topics and facts, there are strategies and skills underlying complex processes that have their own concepts, too.
sok and sop
We take those concepts and articulate them in a conceptual relationship. Then we have our generalizations or principles that will guide inductive teaching to allow students to discover them.
Here are a few examples for Social Studies, Mathematics and Science. The grade levels are marked so you can see a progression throughout the years. They should be vertically aligned and increase in sophistication. I think once you read them you will agree these should also be goals of teaching and learning!
Social Studies:

  • Creating Historical Accounts: (7th Grade) Historians construct a picture of how people lived in the past through asking thoughtful questions, carefully designed research and informed imagination.
  • Creating Historical Accounts: (11th Grade) The way a historian frames a research question determines the type of account produced. (e. The question “Why did the Roman Empire fall when it had resisted attack for 100s of years?” will lead to a different account than “Why did the Western Roman Empire fall when it did not fall in the East?”)
  • Evaluating and Using Evidence: (6th grade) Geographers consider the point of view of each source when drawing conclusions from visual representations of places (maps, globes, etc.) data and written sources.
  • Evaluating and Using Evidence: (12th grade) Historians and policy experts corroborate evidence from one source with other sources to determine the reliability of accounts. Historians avoid over-reliance on single sources.


  • Sense making and perseverance: (6th) Mathematicians begin by explaining to themselves the meaning of a problem and look for entry points to its solution. We continually ask ourselves, “Does this make sense?”
  • Sense making and perseverance: (10th) Mathematicians consider analogous problems and try special cases and simpler forms of the original problem in order to gain insight into its solution.
  • Modeling and using tools: (6th) Mathematicians apply math to solve problems arising in everyday life, society and the workplace.
  • Modeling and using tools: (12th) When making mathematical models, mathematicians use technology to visualize the results of varying assumptions, explore consequences, and compare predictions with data.


  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (6th): Scientists and engineers plan and carry out investigations individually and collaboratively, identifying independent and dependent variables and controls.
  • Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (9th): Scientists plan and carry out investigations that build, test, and revise conceptual, mathematical, physical, and empirical phenomena.
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: (8th) Scientists construct explanations for either qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables.
    They also apply scientific reasoning to show why the data are adequate for the explanation or conclusion.
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: (12th) Scientists engage in the design cycle, to construct and implement a solution that meets specific design criteria and constraints.

Tomorrow and Friday’s posts will go into more detail and examples about assessment and instruction.
What do you think?