This chapter concerns the developing conceptions of the structure of knowledge (often shortened to development of conceptions of knowledge). This is a frame of reference that has much to do with the process of learning to learn (see Chapter 1). Most humans in a reasonably stimulating environment seem to progress to a certain point in their understanding of the nature of knowledge. This is evident in the manner in which they represent their learning. An example is in the way in which they might use knowledge to justify judgements that they make and it is particularly evident in the judgement of moral issues (King and Kitchener, 1994). A growing sophistication in understanding of knowledge seems to be assumed in most processes of formal education, but it is not a quality that has often been made explicit. If knowledge grows and changes, then it should not be viewed as a 'commodity' (as in the current jargon), but as a process (Polyani, 1969).
This chapter is concerned mainly with the outcomes of four projects in which the development of the conceptions of the structure of knowledge has been studied. These have been, mainly, but not only, in student populations. These studies are broadly summarized and the inter-relationship with other observations of student learning is described (for example, level descriptors and student assessment).