The process of knowledge acquisition is the model by which human beings learn and develop their intelligence.

A process of building the knowledge necessary to develop ourselves as people and acquire tools that allow us to face the challenges of our society.

What is the purpose of knowledge acquisition?

Every time we receive pieces of information structured in theoretical sets, organized in some way, we are acquiring knowledge.

Information is power, as long as we are able to organize and structure it correctly so that it is useful when relating to ourselves and our environment.

According to psychologist Robert Gagné, the main functions of knowledge acquisition are as follows:

They serve us as a prerequisite for the acquisition of other knowledge. The learning of a certain subject requires that we have some previous knowledge that serves to settle and consolidate the new learning.

They are useful to get by in our daily life in a practical way. Normally, the most educated people with a higher level of knowledge, usually have a greater facility to resolve conflicts and succeed in everyday life.

They serve as a vehicle for our thoughts to flow . Individuals with more knowledge are also usually more capable of reasoning and interpreting reality in a more flexible and pragmatic way.

Phases in knowledge acquisition

The acquisition of knowledge is not an easy task and that is why several stages have been identified before knowledge can be considered consolidated as such.

Up to 5 phases have been described as necessary. They are as follows.

1. Identification

In this phase of knowledge acquisition it must be determined, in the first place, if the problem presented to us can be solved or not by knowledge-based systems; that is, it must not be a problem that can be solved by applying algorithms.

In addition, there must be access to sufficient sources of knowledge to complete the task (experts, specialized literature, etc.). And the problem has to be of an adequate size, not impossible to address because of its complexity.

2. Conceptualization

In this phase the basic elements of the problem should be detailed and the relationships between them discovered . It is also a matter of breaking down the problem into sub-problems to facilitate understanding and resolution.

Another necessary element in this phase is to discover the flow of reasoning in the resolution of the problem and to specify when and how the elements of knowledge are necessary. The final objective is to understand the problem and classify its elements.

3. Formalization

In this phase of knowledge acquisition, the aim is to consider different reasoning schemes that can be used to model the different needs for solving identified problems.

The nature of the search space and the type of search to be carried out must be understood, through comparisons with different prototypical problem-solving mechanisms (classification, data abstraction, temporal reasoning, etc.)

The certainty and completeness of the information available should be analysed, as well as its reliability or the consistency of the information. The aim is to develop a formal model of the problem with which the expert system can reason

4. Implementation

In the implementation phase, the most suitable algorithms for problem solving and data structures for knowledge representation must be selected or defined. The aim is to discover problems and incompleteness that will force a revision of some of the previous phases.

5. Test

In this last test phase, a set of representative solved cases has to be chosen and the functioning of the system has to be checked. In this phase, errors are highlighted that will allow previous analyses to be corrected.

Generally, problems will appear due to lack of rules, incompleteness, lack of correction, and possible errors in the analysis of the pre-established rules.

Piaget’s theory of learning

According to Piaget, the organism builds knowledge from its interaction with the environment. The popular psychologist denied the existence of innate knowledge and defended in his theory of learning that people try to know reality through the selection, interpretation and organization of the information they receive.

The acquisition of knowledge, according to Piaget, would be carried out through mechanisms of assimilation and accommodation . The information received would be integrated into the knowledge schemes already constructed in the individual and, in turn, these would be mobilized, modified and undergo a process of accommodation or readjustment.

Assimilation and accommodation

Assimilation and accommodation are two complementary processes of adaptation, postulated by Piaget , through which the individual internalizes the knowledge of the external world.

The process of assimilation refers to the way in which an organism faces a stimulus from the environment in terms of its current organization. Mental assimilation is the process by which new information is shaped into pre-existing cognitive patterns.

The process of accommodation implies a modification of the current organization in response to the demands of the environment. It is a process by which the individual adjusts to external conditions, i.e., internal patterns are modified to accommodate new information.

Ausubel’s Meaningful Learning

David P. Ausubel was an American psychologist and one of the main promoters of constructivism. Ausubel rejected the Piagetian assumption that we only understand what we discover , since according to him we can learn anything as long as such learning is meaningful.

Significant learning is the process of knowledge acquisition according to which new knowledge or information is related to the cognitive structure of the learner in a non-arbitrary and substantive or non-literal way.

This interaction with the cognitive structure does not take place considering it as a whole, but with relevant aspects present in it, which are called subsumers or anchorage ideas.

The presence of inclusive, clear and available ideas, concepts or propositions in the mind of the learner is what gives meaning to that new content in interaction with the learner.

But it is not simply a union of concepts, but in this process the new contents acquire meaning for the learner and a transformation of the subsumers of his or her cognitive structure takes place, which are thus progressively more differentiated, elaborated and stable.

Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory

The socio-cultural theory of Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, one of the most prominent theorists in developmental psychology and a precursor of Soviet neuropsychology, focuses on the contributions that society makes to individual development and the acquisition of knowledge.

This theory focuses not only on how adults and peers influence individual learning , but also on how cultural beliefs and attitudes impact on the way knowledge is taught and constructed.

According to Vygotski, every culture provides what he called intellectual adaptation tools, which enable children to use their basic cognitive skills in ways that are sensitive to the cultural environment in which they grow and develop.

One of the most important concepts of his theory is the zone of proximate development . This concept refers to the distance between the actual level of development determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development determined by problem solving under the guidance and supervision of an adult or more competent peers.

How does our brain learn?

Cognitive neuroscience warns us, again and again, that learning by pure repetition and memorization is not the most appropriate way for our brain to acquire and consolidate knowledge .

It seems that we do not learn by memorizing, but by experiencing, by getting involved and by participating with our hands. Various scientific studies have shown that factors such as surprise, novelty, motivation and teamwork are indispensable factors in promoting and encouraging learning and knowledge acquisition.

Another essential factor in acquiring new knowledge is the emotion and significance of the material to be learned. Learning under the influence of positive emotions and feelings that imply passion, lucidity or curiosity, means increasing the chances that the person will assimilate such knowledge.

In short, it is a matter of involving the person in his/her own learning process , so that learning and acquiring new knowledge is a challenge and not an obligation.

Bibliographic references:

  • Well, Juan Ignacio. 2006). “Cognitive theories of learning” Morata. Madrid.

  • Triglia, Adrián; Regader, Bertrand; García-Allen, Jonathan (2016). Psychologically speaking. Paidós.