Tacit Knowledge -"We Can Know More than We Can Tell"

Not too long ago I heard Robin Moore, who thinks and writes about children and wild places, refer to "the kind of tacit knowledge that comes from experiences outdoors". I have been thinking about this a lot lately in terms of the kind of experiences children are having at Sabot school and in the studio in particular.
This summer, I will read more about Michael Polanyi's ideas about tacit knowledge, which can be defined as a kind of knowing that comes from culture and experience, which can be shared, but which is hard to write down or teach explicitly. For instance, knowing how to ride a bike is this kind of knowledge...I don't quite "know" all about it yet, but here are some pictures of what I think is tacit knowledge being passed between children, teachers, and the environment (our "third teacher");

Engineering and design knowledge about balance (with wood pieces while gluing -making a transformer)

Desiring straight lines, Oliver went and got a ruler to use as a straight-edge. Luke followed suit, showing that they know where things are in the studio, how to use a straight-edge, and also showing how Luke noticed Oliver's technique...all without a word being spoken about any of it.

Luke feeling the difference between this side and that side (left and right) of his mental map of the Garden room, in order to put things in the right place on his drawn map.

Tacit knowledge; This is a new idea for me, but I am beginning to think that sharing tacit knowledge may be one of the great benefits of an inquiry, experienced based education.


  1. Fascinating, I'm going to check this out.
    In some ways, it seems familiar, and despite being penned by Polanyi, isn't this what so many indigenous cultures and practices are based on? It also makes me think of women, and how we stand on each others shoulder based on tacit knowledge (and some hard work and love too)

  2. How often have I said "it must be in the ether" to explain some seemingly uncommunicated piece of communication between children? Tacit knowledge?

  3. Thanks, I will look to do some reading too on the subject, fascinating.


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