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The Four Educations: How We Learn and Teach

The Four Educations (or faculties) are cognitive structures and processes for learning and teaching that includes far more of the human experience than current theories in psychology and education afford.  Personal Awareness, Feeling/Knowing, Thinking/Understanding, and Personality/Behavior are together human faculties that comprise the way information is gathered and processed.  If one can grasp how these faculties work separately and in conjunction with one another, then teaching and learning will be best implemented.

Personal Awareness

Personal Awareness is a receptive (not a perceptive) faculty were the context of another may be glimpsed.  It is characteristically wordless and without judgment.  As Aeschylus expressed it, “Seeing he saw.”  The only thing going on in Awareness is what we are receiving, like the open aperture of a camera.  In Awareness there is no tendency to see a thing in a certain way—it is what it is.

THINK:  A moment of “blankness” that enables you do suddenly see something exactly as it is (i.e. a solution to a crossword clue, an “aha!” moment in learning, a sudden chill of electricity that drives you into action).


Here, perception of data received from Awareness begins in the exercise of imagination.  Pre-verbal images arrange themselves into sensations and patterns congruent with one’s life experience, cultural values and temperament.  Feeling/Knowing is the ground in which all personal, unique, meaningful knowledge takes root.

THINK:  You are a mandala and your life’s experiences, culture, upbringing, interests, etc. that shape what you know and with which senses you feel you know things, and a temperament that orients how you will relate to anything new you encounter.  A student must rely upon this bedrock of Feeling/Knowing to begin his adventure in relating to and understanding new content in school and beyond.


Thinking/Understanding is the faculty one uses to further refine the images from Feeling/Knowing into ordered, notated, and logical thought.  This is the arena in which we fashion, design, blueprint, categorize, analyze, verbalize, and otherwise render images into applicable forms.

THINK:  Thought with understanding is the summative piece of a full experience of learning that has included imagery of the Feeling/Knowing.  It takes a student’s sensory imagery to a level where he can communicate with others in a manner that is widely understood.


Personality/Behavior is the arena in which we act upon the instructions of the Thinking/Understanding life which in turn has taken its cues from Feeling/Knowing.  As behavior plays itself out it ideally creates a feedback loop through the other faculties adding a wave of energy that restarts the entire process from Awareness to Personality/Behavior over again.

THINK:  A student might present his ideas in a clowning fashion because that which he feels and knows is unacknowledged and his teacher is relying solely upon his ability to merely recite knowledge (overeliance on Thinking/Understanding).  He might be judged as a class clown when in actuality, the judgment is made solely upon his Personality/Behavior which is not aligned with that which he feels and knows and is capable of thinking and understanding.  Differentiated instruction is one manner in which to address this common issue in teaching.


*There is nothing in this picture of the four human cognitive faculties that suggests an ideal alignment of them.  But, the neglect of one ore more of these faculties assures a host of pathologies which assail our society from teenager bullying to psychopathic character disorder.  Furthermore, at the least, the learning and teaching can be seriously imperiled by such neglect.

* Current educational practices overfocus on a student’s ability to THINK and BEHAVE.  If one can easily, accurately, and amiably share knowledge she receives an A, sparkly star, Good Job, or other specifically positive evaluation. If not, remediation is the first action vs. looking into what she DOES KNOW or UNDERSTAND and how it is being taught to her.  This is a major attitude change we advocate with our work in Heart of the Matter books.