Organising knowledge with multi-level content

I have just finished a paper titled Organising Knowledge with Multi-level Content: Making knowledge easier to understand, remember and communicate.

For those interested in new approaches to non-fiction books, please also have a look at my paper on applying multi-level summaries to books.

It looks at two of the key problems for learners and those who want to communicate knowledge, which are:
  • the problem of structure
  • the problem of multiple knowledge levels.

All knowledge has structure and making sense of knowledge requires understanding the structure of an explanation.

Given that neither spoken or written words on their own are very effective at communicating structure, I recommend the use of knowledge maps which provide visual representations of knowledge structures.

I also provide examples of some fascinating knowledge maps including maps that cover:
  • future technological and social trends
  • a big history of the planet from the Big Bang to the present day
  • a comprehensive map of the French language
  • a categorisation of cognitive biases.

I think these maps have important implications for how knowledge can be communicated more effectively.

Different types of knowledge structure looked at in the paper

However, it’s important to realise that knowledge does not just have structure, it has hierarchical structure.

Complex explanations need multiple connected levels, organised by detail and importance, if learners are to be able to understand them easily.

A key aspect of learning is being able to move easily between the big picture and the detail (and between the core information and the subsidiary information) in order to build up an understanding of what one is learning.

Yet, if descriptions of the big picture or the core information are not marked out clearly but are instead hidden in a mass of detail – or are missing – learners can struggle.

A solution to the problem of multiple knowledge levels is to provide summary explanations which cover all the different knowledge levels of an explanation.

The concept of multi-level content combines these two solutions with the provision of both knowledge maps and summary explanations.

The benefits of multi-level content include:
  • allowing an at-a-glance understanding of the knowledge structure or structures being used in an explanation
  • making it easier for learners to move between different levels of knowledge
  • allowing learners to easily choose the particular knowledge level or levels that best meet their needs.
Areas where multi-level content could prove particularly useful include:
  • non-fiction books
  • businesses and organisations
  • education
  • maps of particular knowledge areas
  • training courses.

At the beginning of the paper, there are 5- and 15-minute summaries which will quickly allow you to pick up the main points of the paper. They also help to illustrate the concept of multi-level content.

It can be downloaded

(Pages 2-12 are in landscape format. Sometimes the screen pdf shows them in portrait. If this happens, please either re-load the page or download the pdf onto your computer.)

Comments on the paper

Date published: June 22, 2018.
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