Exploring Structured Learning and the Importance of Tacit Knowledge


Hatched by Glasp

Aug 18, 2023

4 min read


Exploring Structured Learning and the Importance of Tacit Knowledge


Structured learning and tacit knowledge are two important aspects of education and skill acquisition. In this article, we will delve into these concepts and discuss how they impact our learning journeys. While structured learning provides clear paths and objectives, it can become challenging after school due to the absence of institutional oversight. On the other hand, tacit knowledge plays a crucial role in expertise and problem-solving. By understanding the connection between these two elements, we can enhance our learning experiences and strive for mastery in our chosen fields.

Structured Learning: Discovery, Sense-Making, and Experimentation

Structured learning involves three distinct phases: discovery, sense-making, and experimentation. During the discovery phase, we actively explore various avenues for learning, drawing inspiration from work, hobbies, media, or literature. This process helps us generate a backlog of topic areas that we can delve into, each tied to a specific objective or value. It is essential to keep our eyes wide open during this activity, as it allows us to identify potential areas of interest.

Sense-making is the phase where we choose a topic from our discovery list and decide to research and explore it in-depth. This phase often involves creating artifacts, such as tweets, articles, or visuals, to document our findings and insights. By leveraging the public record of the internet, we can hold ourselves accountable and contribute to the collective knowledge. Annotating and organizing valuable content becomes crucial, ensuring that we leave breadcrumbs for others to find long after we have moved on from a particular topic.

The Public Record of the Internet and Accountability

The public record of the internet serves as a strong accountability incentive. By sharing our thoughts, discoveries, and insights openly, we invite others to engage with our ideas and contribute their perspectives. This transparency fosters a sense of responsibility to continue learning and sharing knowledge. For example, using tools like Glasp, we can annotate and categorize compelling written content, creating a repository of valuable resources. This way, we not only benefit ourselves but also provide value to others who may stumble upon our curated knowledge.

Tacit Knowledge: Emulation and Action

Tacit knowledge refers to the embodied understanding of a skill or expertise. It is often acquired through imitation, emulation, and apprenticeship. Rather than relying solely on explicit instructions or procedures, tacit knowledge focuses on internalizing the principles and feelings necessary for successful execution. Expert operators rely heavily on tacit knowledge, making instantaneous decisions that balance multiple considerations.

While deliberate practice has its merits in certain fields, such as music, math, and chess, it falls short when it comes to acquiring tacit knowledge. Expertise is built through years of working under a master, absorbing their knowledge through emulation, feedback, and osmosis. Attempting to turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge through a step-by-step approach limits our ability to develop creative problem-solving skills. Instead, we should prioritize gaining tacit knowledge directly, seeking mentors and immersing ourselves in the field to grasp its nuances.

The Significance of Tacit Knowledge in Skill Acquisition

Tacit knowledge is often overlooked in favor of deliberate practice and cognitive bias research. However, understanding and acquiring tacit knowledge are essential for expertise in any field. It requires us to acknowledge that converting tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is a complex task. Therefore, our focus should be on gaining tacit knowledge itself, rather than hoping for a breakthrough that makes it explicit.

To pursue expertise in our chosen fields, we need to explore the published research on tacit knowledge. By studying and learning from experts, we can absorb their wisdom and develop a deep understanding of the subject matter. This shift in perspective allows us to embrace the inherent value of tacit knowledge and prioritize its acquisition in our learning journeys.

Actionable Advice for Structured Learning and Tacit Knowledge Acquisition:

  • 1. Embrace Discovery: Actively seek out new ideas and experiences in various domains. Engage with different forms of media, literature, and hobbies to generate a backlog of topic areas for further exploration.
  • 2. Document and Share: Take advantage of the public record of the internet by documenting your findings, insights, and annotations. Share your knowledge openly to contribute to the collective learning process and hold yourself accountable for continuous growth.
  • 3. Seek Tacit Knowledge: Instead of solely relying on explicit instructions, focus on emulation, apprenticeship, and working under experts to gain tacit knowledge. Prioritize the development of embodied understanding and problem-solving skills in your chosen field.


Structured learning and tacit knowledge are essential components of our educational journeys. By embracing structured learning phases of discovery, sense-making, and experimentation, we can enhance our ability to learn and grow. Simultaneously, recognizing the significance of tacit knowledge and prioritizing its acquisition allows us to develop expertise and excel in our chosen fields. By applying the three actionable advice mentioned above, we can navigate the complexities of structured learning and tap into the power of tacit knowledge to become lifelong learners and problem solvers.

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