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Procedural knowledge (also known as knowing-how, and sometimes referred to as practical knowledge, imperative knowledge, or performative knowledge) is the knowledge exercised in the performance of some task. Unlike
descriptive knowledgeIn epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the Outline of philosophy, branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic Justification (epistemology), justification, the Reason, ...
(also known as "declarative knowledge" or "propositional knowledge" or "knowing-that"), which involves knowledge of specific facts or propositions (e.g. "I know that snow is white"), procedural knowledge involves one's ability to ''do'' something (e.g. "I know how to change a flat tire"). A person doesn't need to be able to verbally articulate their procedural knowledge in order for it to count as knowledge, since procedural knowledge requires only knowing how to correctly perform an action or exercise a skill. The term "procedural knowledge" has narrower but related technical uses in both
cognitive psychology Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of mental process Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intelle ...
and
intellectual property law Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect. There are many types of intellectual property, and some countries recognize more than others. The most well-known types are copyrig ...
.


Overview

Procedural knowledge (i.e., knowledge-how) is different from
descriptive knowledgeIn epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the Outline of philosophy, branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic Justification (epistemology), justification, the Reason, ...
(i.e., knowledge-that) in that it can be directly applied to a task. For instance, the procedural knowledge one uses to solve problems differs from the declarative knowledge one possesses about
problem solving Problem solving consists of using generic or ad hoc Ad hoc is a Latin phrase __NOTOC__ This is a list of Wikipedia articles of Latin phrases and their translation into English. To view all phrases on a single, lengthy document, see: * L ...

problem solving
because this knowledge is formed by doing.Koedinger, K.R. & Corbett, A. (2006). "Technology Bringing Learning Sciences to the Classroom". In Sawyer, R. K. (Ed.), ''The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences''. pp. 61–75. New York: Cambridge University Press The distinction between knowing-how and knowing-that was brought to prominence in
epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the concerned with . Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic , the of , and various related issues. Epistemology is considered a major subfield of philosophy, along with other major ...

epistemology
by
Gilbert Ryle Gilbert Ryle (1900–1976) was a British philosopher, principally known for his critique of Cartesian dualism, for which he coined the phrase "ghost in the machine." He was a representative of the generation of British ordinary language philosoph ...
who used it in his book ''
The Concept of Mind ''The Concept of Mind'' is a 1949 book by philosopher Gilbert Ryle, in which the author argues that "mind" is "a philosophical illusion hailing chiefly from René Descartes René Descartes ( or ; ; Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; 31 March 1 ...
''.


Definition

Procedural knowledge is the “know how” attributed to technology defined by cognitive psychologists, which is simply ‘know how to do it’ knowledge. Part of the complexity of it comes in trying to link it to terms such as ‘process’, ‘problem solving’, ‘strategic thinking’ and the like, which in turn requires distinguishing different levels of procedure. It is the ability to execute action sequences to solve problems. This type of knowledge is tied to specific problem types and therefore is not widely generalizable. Procedural knowledge is goal-oriented and mediates problem-solving behavior. The term “procedural knowledge” is also widely used in mathematics educational researches. The well-influential definition of procedural knowledge in this domain comes from the introductory chapter by Hiebert and Lefevre (1986) of the seminal book “Conceptual and procedural knowledge: The case of mathematics”, they divided procedural knowledge into two categories. The first one is a familiarity with the individual symbols of the system and with the syntactic conventions for acceptable configurations of symbols. The second one consists of rules or procedures of solving mathematical problems. In order words, they define procedural knowledge as knowledge of the syntax, steps conventions and rules for manipulating symbols. Many of the procedures that students possess probably are chains of prescriptions for manipulating symbols. In their definition, procedural knowledge includes algorithms, which means if one executes the procedural steps in a predetermined order and without errors, one is guaranteed to get the solutions, but not includes heuristics, which are abstract, sophisticated and deep procedures knowledges that are tremendously powerful assets in problem solving. Therefore, Star (2005) proposed a reconceptualization of procedural knowledge, which suggesting it can be either superficial, like ones mentioned in Hiebert and Lefevre (1986), or deep. Deep procedural knowledge is associated with comprehension, flexibility and critical judgement. For example, the goals and subgoals of steps, the environment or type of situation for certain procedure, and the constraints imposed upon the procedure by the environment. Researches of procedural flexibility development indicates flexibility as an indicator for deep procedural knowledge. Individuals with superficial procedural knowledge can only use standard technique, which might lead to low efficiency solutions and probably inability to solve novel questions. However, more flexible solvers, with a deep procedural knowledge, can navigate their way through domain, using techniques other than ones that are over-practiced, and find the best match solutions for different conditions and goals.


Development

The development of procedural knowledge is always entangled with the development of declarative knowledge. Researchers suggested that initial problem solving involves explicitly referring to examples, participants start with pure example-based processing. The examples illustrate the solution of a similar problem and the problem solver analogically maps the solution of the example onto a solution for the current problem. People make extensive reference to examples even when they are initially taught the rules and principles. It is believed that when people acquiring cognitive skills, firstly an example is encoded as a declarative structure. When participants are tested on their first problems, they have two possible ways to respond. If the example matches the problem they learned, they can simply retrieve the answer. However, if it does not match, they must analogically extend the example. With repeated practice, general rules develop, and the specific example is no longer accessed. In this way, knowledge transitions from a declarative form (encoding of examples) to a procedural form (productions rules), which is called the adaptive control of thought—rational (ACT-R) theory. However, in certain occasions, procedural and declarative knowledge can be acquired independently. Researches with amnesic patients found that they can learn motor skills without the ability to recollect the episodes in which they learned them, also learned and retained the ability to read mirror-reversed words efficiently, yet were severely impaired in recognizing those words, which give evidences about the neurological basis differences in procedural and declarative knowledge. Researchers also found that some normal subjects, like amnesic patients, showed substantial procedural learning in the absence of explicit declarative knowledge. Even though declarative knowledge may influence performance on a procedural task, procedural and declarative knowledge may be acquired separately, one does not need to have knowledge of one type in order to build the other type of knowledge. The influence caused by declarative knowledge might be due to the facilitation to a process of pathway activation that is outside of conscious awareness. If the prime is highly predictive of the target, the amount of facilitation is increased because of an active, conscious, attentional effect that is superimposed on the pathway activation. Therefore, if and when subjects develop explicit declarative knowledge of procedure, they can use this knowledge to form attentional expectancies regarding the next item in this procedure.


Activation

Lashley (1951) proposed that behavioral sequences are typically controlled with central plans, and the structure of the plans is hierarchical. Some evidences also support this hypothesis. Same behaviors can have different functional interpretations depending on the context in which they occur. The same sound pattern can be interpreted differently depending on where it occurs in a sentence, for example, “there” and “their”. Such contextual dependence is only possible with functionally overarching states of the sort implied by hierarchical plans. The initiation time of a movement sequence and the inter-response times of the sequence elements can increase with its length. Further, inter-response times can depend on the size of the phrase that is about to be generated. The larger the phrase, the longer the inter-response time. Such data have been interpreted in terms of ‘decoding’ or ‘unpacking’ hierarchical plans into their constituents. Moreover, learning difficulties changes with the easiness of behavioral sequences. Finally, long-term learning of skills is naturally characterized by the process of forming ever larger hierarchical units or ‘chunks'. People learn control structures for successively larger units of behavior, with newly learned routines calling up or relying on more elementary routines, like learning to play simple notes before being able to play piano concerto. As for process of behavior plan forming, Rosenhaum et al. (2007) proposed that plans are not formed from scratch for each successive movement sequence but instead are formed by making whatever changes are needed to distinguish the movement sequence to be performed next from the movement sequence that has just been performed. There are evidences found that motor planning occurs by changing features of successively needed motor plans. Also, Rosenhaum et al. (2007) found that even single movements appear to be controlled with hierarchically organized plans. With starting and goal postures at the top level and intermediate states comprising the transition from the starting to the goal at the lower level.


Interaction with conceptual knowledge

The most common understanding in relation to the procedural and conceptual knowledge is of the contrast of ‘knowing how’ and ‘knowing that’. Some see the distinction as a contrast between the tacit knowledge of technology and the explicit knowledge of science. Conceptual knowledge allows us to explain why, hence the distinction of ‘know how’ and ‘know why’. Conceptual knowledge is concerned with relationships among ‘items’ of knowledge, such that when students can identify these links, it means them have ‘conceptual understanding’. Cognitive psychologists also use the term ‘declarative knowledge’, to contrast it with procedural knowledge, and define it as ‘knowledge of facts’. However, declarative knowledge may be a collection of unrelated facts, whereas conceptual knowledge puts the focus on relationships. Also, declarative knowledge is an inert form of knowledge which contrasted with procedural knowledge as an active form, but conceptual knowledge can be part of an active process. Therefore, it is important to know that conceptual knowledge is not simply factual knowledge but consists of ideas that give some power to thinking about technological activity. Several evidence from mathematics learning researches support the idea that conceptual understanding plays a role in generation and adoption of procedures. Children with greater conceptual understanding tend to have greater procedural skill. Conceptual understanding precedes procedural skill. Instruction about concepts as well as procedures can lead to increased procedural skill. And increasing conceptual knowledge leads to procedure generation. However, this relationship is not unidirectional. Conceptual and procedural knowledge develop iteratively, but the conceptual knowledge may have a greater influence on procedural knowledge than the reverse. Conceptual instruction led to increased conceptual understanding and to generation and transfer of a correct procedure. Procedural instruction led to increased conceptual understanding and to adoption, but only limited transfer, of the instructed procedure.


Technical uses of the phrase


Artificial intelligence

In ''
artificial intelligence Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence Intelligence has been defined in many ways: the capacity for abstraction Abstraction in its main sense is a conceptual process where general rules and concept Concepts are defined as abstra ...

artificial intelligence
'', procedural knowledge is one type of knowledge that can be possessed by an
intelligent agent In artificial intelligence Artificial intelligence (AI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence human intelligence, displayed by humans and animal cognition, animals, which involves consciousness and emotio ...
. Such knowledge is often represented as a partial or complete
finite-state machine A finite-state machine (FSM) or finite-state automaton (FSA, plural: ''automata''), finite automaton, or simply a state machine, is a mathematical model of computation In computer science Computer science deals with the theoretical fou ...
or
computer program In imperative programming, a computer program is a sequence of instructions in a programming language that a computer can execute or interpret. In declarative programming, a ''computer program'' is a Set (mathematics), set of instructions. A comp ...
. A well-known example is the procedural reasoning system, which might, in the case of a mobile robot that navigates in a building, contain procedures such as "navigate to a room" or "plan a path". In contrast, an AI system based on declarative knowledge might just contain a map of the building, together with information about the basic actions that can be done by the robot (like moving forward, turning, and stopping), and leave it to a domain-independent planning algorithm to discover how to use those actions to achieve the agent's goals.


Cognitive psychology

In ''
cognitive psychology Cognitive psychology is the scientific study of mental process Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intelle ...
'', procedural knowledge is the knowledge exercised in the accomplishment of a task, and thus includes knowledge which, unlike declarative knowledge, cannot be easily articulated by the individual, since it is typically nonconscious (or tacit). Many times, the individual learns procedural knowledge without even being aware that they are learning. For example, most individuals can easily recognize a specific face as "attractive" or a specific joke as "funny", but they cannot explain how exactly they arrived at that conclusion or they cannot provide a working definition of "attractiveness" or being "funny". This example illustrates the difference between procedural knowledge and the ordinary notion of knowing how, a distinction which is acknowledged by many cognitive psychologists. Ordinarily, we would not say that one who is able to recognize a face as attractive is one who knows how to recognize a face as attractive. One knows how to recognize faces as attractive no more than one knows how to recognize certain arrangements of leptons, quarks, etc. as tables. Recognizing faces as attractive, like recognizing certain arrangements of leptons, quarks, etc. as tables, is simply something that one does, or is able to do. It is, therefore, an instance of procedural knowledge, but it is not an instance of know-how. Of course, both forms of knowledge are, in many cases, nonconscious. For instance, research by a cognitive psychologist Pawel Lewicki has demonstrated that procedural knowledge can be acquired by nonconscious processing of information about covariations.


Educational implications

In the classroom, procedural knowledge is part of the prior knowledge of a student. In the context of formal education procedural knowledge is what is learned about learning strategies. It can be the "tasks specific rules, skills, actions, and sequences of actions employed to reach goals" a student uses in the classroom. As an example for procedural knowledge Cauley refers to how a child learns to count on their hands and/or fingers when first learning math. The Unified Learning Model explicates that procedural knowledge helps make learning more efficient by reducing the cognitive load of the task. In some educational approaches, particularly when working with students with learning disabilities, educators perform a
task analysis Task analysis is the analysis of how a task is accomplished, including a detailed description of both manual and mental activities, task and element durations, task frequency, task allocation, task complexity, environmental conditions, necessary clo ...
followed by explicit instruction with the steps needed to accomplish the task. One advantage of procedural knowledge is that it can involve more
sense A sense is a biological system used by an organism for sensation, the process of gathering information about the world and responding to Stimulus (physiology), stimuli. (For example, in the human body, the brain receives signals from the senses ...

sense
s, such as hands-on experience, practice at solving problems, understanding of the limitations of a specific solution, etc. Thus procedural knowledge can frequently eclipse theory. One limitation of procedural knowledge is its job-dependent nature. As a result, it tends to be less general than declarative knowledge. For example, a computer expert might have
knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity or awareness, of someone or something, such as facts A fact is something that is truth, true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to e ...
about a computer algorithm in multiple languages, or in pseudo-code, but a Visual Basic programmer might know only about a specific implementation of that algorithm, written in Visual Basic. Thus the 'hands-on' expertise and experience of the Visual Basic programmer might be of commercial value only to Microsoft job-shops, for example.


Intellectual property law

In ''
intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner o ...
'' law, procedural knowledge is a parcel of closely held information relating to industrial technology, sometimes also referred to as a
trade secret Trade secrets are a type of intellectual property that comprise formulas, best practice, practices, business process, processes, designs, legal instrument, instruments, patterns, or compilations of information that have inherent economic value be ...
which enables its user to derive commercial benefit from it. In some legal systems, such procedural knowledge has been considered the intellectual property of a company, and can be transferred when that company is purchased. It is a component of the intellectual property rights on its own merits in most legislations but most often accompanies the license to the right-of-use of
patent A patent is a type of intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depe ...

patent
s or
trademark A trademark (also written trade mark or trade-mark) is a type of intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also r ...

trademark
s owned by the party releasing it for circumscribed use. Procedural knowledge is not however solely composed of secret information that is not in the public domain; it is a "bundled" parcel of secret and related non-secret information which would be novel to an expert in the field of its usage.


See also

*
Knowledge by acquaintance In philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosophy of language, la ...
*
Descriptive knowledgeIn epistemology Epistemology (; ) is the Outline of philosophy, branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge. Epistemologists study the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge, epistemic Justification (epistemology), justification, the Reason, ...
*
Algorithm In and , an algorithm () is a finite sequence of , computer-implementable instructions, typically to solve a class of problems or to perform a computation. Algorithms are always and are used as specifications for performing s, , , and other ...

Algorithm
*
Descriptive researchDescriptive research is used to describe characteristics of a statistical population, population or phenomenon being studied. It does not answer questions about how/when/why the characteristics occurred. Rather it addresses the "what" question (w ...
*
Experience Experience refers to conscious , an English Paracelsian Paracelsianism (also Paracelsism; German: ') was an early modern History of medicine, medical movement based on the theories and therapies of Paracelsus. It developed in the second half ...

Experience
*
Heuristic A heuristic (; ), or heuristic technique, is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method that is not guaranteed to be Mathematical optimisation, optimal, perfect, or Rationality, rational, but is nevertheless ...
*
How-to The Linux Documentation Project (LDP) used to be an all-volunteer project that maintains a large collection of GNU GNU () is an extensive collection of free software, which can be used as an operating system or can be used in parts with other ...
*
Imperative mood The imperative mood is a grammatical mood In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed lang ...
*
Idea In common usage and in philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Philosoph ...

Idea
*
Inquiry An inquiry (also spelled as enquiry in British English British English (BrE) is the standard dialect of the English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon E ...

Inquiry
*
Know-how Know-how (or knowhow, or procedural knowledge) is a term for practical knowledge on how to accomplish something, as opposed to "know-what" (facts), "know-why" (science), or "know-who" (communication). It is also often referred to as street smarts ...
*
Knowledge tags In information systems, a tag is a Index term, keyword or term assigned to a piece of information (such as an Bookmark (World Wide Web), Internet bookmark, digital image, database Record (computer science), record, or computer file). This kind of ...
*
Method Method ( grc, μέθοδος, methodos) literally means a pursuit of knowledge, investigation, mode of prosecuting such inquiry, or system. In recent centuries it more often means a prescribed process for completing a task. It may refer to: *Scien ...

Method
*
Normative scienceIn the applied sciences, normative science is a type of information that is developed, presented, or interpreted based on an assumed, usually unstated, preference for a particular outcome, policy or class of policies or outcomes. Regular or traditi ...
*
Procedural memory Procedural memory is a type of implicit memory (Unconscious mind, unconscious, long-term memory, long-term memory) which aids the performance of particular types of tasks without Consciousness, conscious awareness of these previous Experience, ex ...
*
Trial and error Trial and error is a fundamental method of problem-solving Problem solving consists of using generic or ad hoc Ad hoc is a List of Latin phrases, Latin phrase meaning literally 'to this'. In English, it generally signifies a solution desi ...


References

{{Epistemology Skills Technical communication de:Handlungswissen