Depth Versus Width of Knowledge

Is depth better than width or the opposite.  I mean, when it comes to knowledge, is it better to know one or two things in-depth or better to know a little about everything?

For me, I prefer width over depth.  Knowledge is like an Eden, a garden – isn’t it better to fill up your garden with a variety of beautiful flowers rather than 1 type of flower? More variety of flowers give more color and textures to your garden and hence enhance its beauty.

To know one or two things very well but useless in other things doesn’t sound very smart at all.  Take the case of a savant – or some people call it ‘idiot savant’ – a person affected with a mental disability (such as autism) who exhibits exceptional brilliance in something (such as mathematics), however useless in simple things like eating or dressing himself.  However, this is the extreme case where that person has no control over his brain.  I’m talking about normal people.

To know more about everything can help you a lot in this diversified world.  It allows you to be able to adapt to different situations or help solve simple problems.  It assists you to manage your life without too much dependence on other people.

There are two types of people who should have breadth of knowledge rather than depth.  A teacher and a mother.  Suffice for me to say that to be a teacher or a mother, a person must have knowledge in almost everything to help him/her educate and raise a child so that the child is able to know the basic foundations of life, and to help him to be able to go out there in the big world AND survive.

However, we also do need people with depths of knowledge in various subjects and areas.  These are the people who can help solve serious problems that crop up in the world.  These people, nevertheless, cannot work alone.  Such people have to come together and pool their deep knowledge to think strategically and make important decisions or invent something that can improve the lives of many people or save the world from certain dangers.

That is why in today’s education system, Depth of Knowledge (also known as D.O.K) was introduced into the curriculum.  This concept was developed through research by a senior research scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Education research, Norman L.Webb in the late 1990’s.

Webb identified 4 distinct depths of knowledge levels.  Level 1 includes basic recall of facts, concepts, information, or procedures. This knowledge level has to be taught to all students and it is an essential learning component.  Level 2 includes skills and concepts to enable a child to solve problems using multiple steps.  Level 3 includes skills in strategic thinking and reasoning.  This level prepares students to analyze and evaluate complex real world problems and try to predict positive outcomes.  Level 4 includes skills in investigative and application to help solve complex real world problems that have unpredictable outcomes.  These people are very useful in our society and can work together for the betterment of human lives.

Like one blogger commented, ‘How can someone who knows a little about a lot learn a lot about a little to be more useful in the community?’


So, with this brief description of mine on the topic of Depth Vs. Width of Knowledge, what are your thoughts?  Leave me some comments.




2 thoughts on “Depth Versus Width of Knowledge”

  1. What I am finding in modern technology you need both… To be successful at work in any field the degree of difficulty, the extreme focus on “do more with less” in the entire world and the competition among different cultures and/or paradigms demands this…

    Liked by 1 person

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