Structures of Knowledge

Knowledge emerges from the networking of information. How humans come to understand these structures of knowledge within our world shapes our diverse worldviews and our capacities for effective and collective action on challenges of planetary sustainability.

Image adapted from Erickson et al. (2017), sensu Stern et al. (2021)

Knowledge emerges from the networking of information

We can think of knowledge as like bricks in the construction of higher levels of understanding, like scientific theories. Importantly, knowledge itself is built up from the organization of smaller bits of information from the world around us.  Since it is we humans, as individuals and collectives, that are organizing and structuring all of this information, understanding how structures of knowledge evolve can give you new tools for seeing and influencing the world around you. 

Understanding the structures of knowledge in our world is a key to self-directed education and an adaptive school curriculum

By focusing on the relationship between the specifics of the world and the deeper generalizations within our understandings of the world, we can begin to make our implicit structures of knowledge more explicit. Structure of Knowledge (SoK) Diagrams can help us map and compare the conceptual landscapes of our world. 

Of particular importance for the design of school curriculum is the ability to clarify disciplinary versus interdisciplinary competence, in terms of the structures of knowledge that are learned and applied.

Disciplinary Competence

Core concepts are learned and understood within the scope of defined disciplines.

Interdisciplinary Competence

Core concepts are learned and understood across the diverse contexts of traditional disciplines.

Scientific literacy requires both disciplinary and interdisciplinary competencies!

Learn more about how to analyze, interpret, understand, and influence the structures of knowledge that shape our world! Structure of Knowledge diagrams, like those above, can help us become metacognitively aware of the concepts that shape our worldviews, as individuals and communities. 


Erickson, H. L., Lanning, L. A., & French, R. (2017). Concept-based curriculum and instruction for the thinking classroom. Corwin Press.

Stern, J., Ferraro, K., Duncan, K., & Aleo, T. (2021). Learning That Transfers: Designing Curriculum for a Changing World. Corwin Press.