Powerful Knowledge

Today’s lecture spoke about the idea of having a ‘sense of place’. We investigated ways in which this could be taught in the primary school. We created a mind map exploring the ideas that we had come up with – linking these to e’s and o’s, which included activities such as; creating maps of the local area, google maps, links to mathematics and expressive arts, family links, building history, school trips, etc. These activities would give students a better awareness of ‘sense of place’ and develop a set of skills for this subject.


For our TDT we were asked to read a couple of articles relating to ‘powerful knowledge‘.

What is ‘powerful knowledge‘?

 powerful knowledge is that it is knowledge that is taught from in the classroom and is fact based. It has the idea of equal opportunities, citizens and entitlement to knowledge; this entitlement is not limited on grounds of assumed ability or motivation, ethnicity, class or gender. The curriculum is seen as a supporter of equality based on the best knowledge we have, or an attempted staged approach towards acquiring it.

According to Young, skills are not a good basis for a curriculum – they are limiting on their own. He believes knowledge is the key part – it take students beyond their experiences.

The authors propose 3 criteria for defining powerful knowledge:

  1. It is distinct from ‘common sense’ knowledge acquired through everyday experience and therefore context-specific and limited.
  2. It is systematic. Its concepts are related to each as part of a discipline with its specific rules and conventions. It can be the basis for generalisations and predictions beyond specific cases or contexts.
  3. It is specialized; developed by specialists within defined fields of expertise and enquiry.

(Playfair, 2015), (Roberts, 2014)

Arguments for ‘powerful knowledge’ in the classroom:

  • Gives stability to teachers and students.
  • It gives a clear indication of that is being taught and under what subject.
  • Knowledge-based curriculums are taught tin a hierarchical way, which is helpful for teachers to plan and see profession in students.
  • A ‘Powerful knowledge’ based curriculum would give a national coherence as every child would be equal as every student would be taught the same thing. Without this children would be taught different things relating to different out of school experiences, which consequently leads in inequality in students meaning some students would gain ‘better knowledge’ than others.

(Young, 2013)

Arguments against ‘powerful knowledge’ in the classroom:

  • It is not possible for a curriculum to reduce all educational inequalities.
  • Knowledge-based curriculums could increase the amount of failures and drop outs.
  • It is not suited to the students interests or preferences.
  • Everyday experiences are a more memorable for of learning in the primary school
  • Relating teaching to the children experiences and interests is motivational for them

(Young, 2013)

Drawing on own experiences, what are your thoughts regarding the role of ‘knowledge’ in the primary classroom?

Since reading about ‘powerful knowledge’ in the classroom i have a better understand of knowledge and its place in the classroom.

I understand that ‘powerful knowledge’ is a core aspect for learning but I do not agree that it should be used solely and separate from other aspects. I believe for a full educational experience children should be able to use aspects such as their out of school experiences and be given the opportunity to develop skills through learning.

The Curriculum for excellence E’s and O’s in the early stage for social studies shows how a child own experiences can be brought together in the classroom and merged with new knowledge.

I explore and discover the interesting features of my local environment to develop an awareness of the world around me (SOC 0-07a)

(Education Scotland, 2016)


Playfair, E. (2015). What is powerful knowledge? Available at: https://eddieplayfair.com/2015/08/19/what-is-powerful-knowledge/. (Accessed 12/09/18).

Roberts, M. (2014). Powerful knowledge and geographical education, The curriculum journal. Issue 25 Vol 2. pp. 187- 209.

Young, M (2013) Overcoming the crisis in curriculum theory: a knowledge-based approach, Journal of Curriculum Studies. Issue 45 Vol 2. pp.101-118.

Education Scotland. (2016).  Experiences and Outcomes, Social Studies. Available at: https://education.gov.scot/scottish-education-system/policy-for-scottish-education/policy-drivers/cfe-(building-from-the-statement-appendix-incl-btc1-5)/Experiences%20and%20outcomes#soc (Accessed 12/09/18).

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