Knowledge Coherence

Imagine a time when Saturday mornings meant more than just cartoons. It was a ritual, a cherished part of childhood when mornings were filled with animated adventures and catchy tunes that not only entertained but also educated. This was the era of Schoolhouse Rock, a beloved series of educational animated shorts that aired between cartoons, teaching children everything from grammar to history through the magic of music and animation.
“As your body grows bigger….Your mind must flower….It's great to learn….'Cause knowledge is power! It's Schoolhouse Rocky, the chip off the block…Of your favorite schoolhouse, SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK!”
Region 7 ESC Blog, Jeannie Hipp, Knowledge Coherence, School House Rock ImageThis image is a logo for Schoolhouse Rock!. It is used here for educational purposes under fair use. The original image can be found on the Schoolhouse Rock! page on Wikipedia and sourced from ABC Shop.
For many, the mere mention of phrases like 'Conjunction Junction' or 'I'm Just a Bill' evokes a wave of nostalgia, transporting them back to a time when learning was as fun as it was informative. But for those who didn't grow up with these iconic educational interludes, Schoolhouse Rock might be a new discovery, a delightful window into a former era of educational television.
Yet, beyond the fond memories lies a deeper truth: the messages embedded within Schoolhouse Rock endure because they tap into fundamental aspects of human learning and development. From the early stages of brain growth to the lifelong pursuit of knowledge, the series' songs and animations were more than just educational tools—they were windows into the intricate workings of the mind.
In this article, we'll explore the enduring legacy of Schoolhouse Rock and delve into how its timeless lessons continue to resonate with audiences decades after its initial debut. From brain development to the power of knowledge, we'll uncover the valuable insights that this beloved series communicated, shaping the educational landscape for generations to come.

As Your Body Grows Bigger

I have always been fascinated with neuroscience and the developmental stages in which the brain fosters growth and development. It’s astounding to me how this part of our body transitions from stages to stages without us observing the minute details. Understanding the intricate process of brain development is crucial for educators seeking to optimize instructional practices and foster effective learning environments. As research has shown, the brain undergoes remarkable growth and transformation during the formative years of childhood. For instance, studies indicate that up to 90% of brain growth occurs before kindergarten, with significant increases in brain size and neural connectivity occurring in the early years of life (First Things First, 2024). Incredibly, it doubles in size in the first year. It keeps growing to about 80% of adult size by age 3 and 90% - nearly full grown - by age 5” (First Things First, 2024).
During this critical period, the brain's gray matter, responsible for processing information and facilitating learning, experiences rapid expansion. By the age of seven, the gray matter reaches its peak in childhood, representing a crucial stage in cognitive development (Washington Post, 2023). This surge in neural activity underscores the importance of providing high-quality instructional materials and research-based practices to support optimal brain development. 
To illustrate, consider the analogy of a growing garden: just as nourishing soil and proper care are essential for nurturing healthy plants, providing enriching educational experiences and engaging instructional materials are vital for cultivating young minds. By incorporating evidence-based strategies and rich content into teaching practices, educators can effectively stimulate neural growth and foster a lifelong love of learning.
But, just as important as it is for students to be filled with empirical knowledge to support neurological development, it’s equally as important for teachers to partake in the same process. By grounding instructional approaches in an understanding of brain development, educators can tailor their methods to capitalize on the brain's natural readiness for growth and adaptation. The more knowledgeable teachers are in their field of specialized content, the more critical role they will play in determining what is done in the classroom and how students will learn. With increases in pedagogical content knowledge comes increases in the application of educational theories, best practices, and techniques to teach content effectively and engagingly. As we delve deeper into the nuances of brain development and its implications for education, let us remain mindful of the profound impact that effective instructional materials can have on shaping the minds of the next generation.
Region 7 Blog, Jeannie Hipp, Knowledge Coherence, Center for Academic Review , agency, self-efficacy, knowledge, knowledge coherence

Your Mind Must Flower

Just as a flower flourishes with proper care and nutrients, so do the hearts and minds of individuals. While the flower is self-reliant upon the gardener to care for it, individuals initiate various components to find success - no matter the age of the individual or the role in education they may execute. For example, students establish goals for their academic success. A teacher establishes goals and learning targets to empower teaching principles within the classroom. Administrators establish goals and values for their campus or district to thrive in pursuits of achievability and accountability. 
When a door opens wide, and we look inside a school district that houses these individuals, we see a deluge of avenues of agency being displayed. To what degree? It varies. While some people reflect with a growth mindset and take pleasure in growing from failure moments, others do not. Their reflective thoughts of, “Does it matter if I put forth the effort, or am I bound to fail once again?” “Is anything that I’m doing contributing to making a difference?” 
In order to accelerate learning and create opportunities for learning leaps, a healthy form of agency has to be built. Within education, agency encompasses more than just autonomy and independence—it also encompasses individuals' belief in their own capabilities to enact change and achieve success. This belief, known as self-efficacy, plays a crucial role in shaping the way students, teachers, and other stakeholders approach learning and decision-making. Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, professors at San Diego State University and renowned authors and literacy researchers, define student agency as multidimensional and fostered by approaches to instruction, task design, motivation, assessment, and the development of study habits (Fisher, Rebound, pg 44). These are also keys for the transfer of learning, which is the ability to apply knowledge and strategies under new conditions (National Research Council, 2012). While there are eight dimensions that affect student agency in schools, I primarily want to focus on one: Self-Efficacy.
For students, self-efficacy influences their willingness to take on challenging tasks, persist in the face of setbacks, and advocate for their own learning needs. When students have a strong sense of self-efficacy, they are more likely to engage in self-directed learning activities, set ambitious goals, and seek out resources to support their academic growth. By fostering a culture of self-efficacy in the classroom, educators can empower students to take ownership of their learning journey and develop the confidence needed to navigate the trajectories of difficulties of the educational landscape. 
John Hattie states that self-efficacy has an effect size of 0.71, and reliably holds the potential to accelerate learning (Hattie, n.d.; Providing choice board activities, self-reflection assessments/surveys, positive reinforcement, and lessons that promote investigation and exploration will enhance self-efficacy for students. Again, providing some guidance and structure yet allowing students to have choice in their knowledge and direction of learning will nourish and foster their confidence. 
Similarly, teachers' self-efficacy beliefs play a pivotal role in shaping their instructional practices, classroom management strategies, and professional development pursuits. Educators who possess high levels of self-efficacy are more likely to experiment with innovative teaching methods, persist in refining their practice, and advocate for the needs of their students. By nurturing their own self-efficacy, teachers can create dynamic learning environments where students feel empowered to take risks, explore new ideas, and excel academically. Teachers need clarity on the impact of their efforts to feel valued and effective. They want to experience value and acceptance while still having some autonomy in instructional materials and voice in topics that directly relate to campus and district growth. If teacher agency is an integral part of teaching identity, then their minds must FLOWER in order to create a driving force of self-efficacy to empower students at all levels to take proactive steps toward achieving their goals and making meaningful contributions to the educational framework.

It’s Great To Learn - Knowledge is Power

A component of the Texas Education Agency (TEA) developed set of Research-Based Instructional Strategies (RBIS) is Knowledge Coherence. These sets of practices are supported by research and should be present in classrooms, regardless of instructional materials. With Knowledge Coherence being at the forefront of RBIS 3, it details the benefits in which a reader’s knowledge of background information and vocabulary affect comprehension.
Incorporating students' prior knowledge into instructional planning is essential for promoting comprehension and fostering deeper learning experiences. By leveraging practical teaching strategies that activate and build upon students' existing schemas, educators can create meaningful connections that enhance understanding and retention of new information.
The famous Baseball Study by Recht and Leslie (1988) showed how prior knowledge influences the memory of text for both good and poor readers. Its findings contribute to understanding the importance of prior knowledge in reading comprehension, which can indirectly affect proficiency gaps. I can relate to this theory on a personal level. My husband loves watching wonky science fiction movies. (Side Note: I’m not “hating” on SciFi fans, here! Just stating some personal facts and relatable connections, so don’t send any emails my way.) If my husband had to participate in a discussion or written activity involving a sci-fi topic, he would do an exceptional job because of his prior knowledge on the subject. On the other hand, I would be like a meteor plummeting to the Earth, crashing and burning if I had the same expectations. Yes, I could push through the requirements, but my accurate comprehension skills and knowledge would be flawed because of my inability to connect with the subject due to lack of knowledge. The results of the study make me think, “I wonder how many students, on average, are showing deficits in their learning not because of a lack of proficiencies in abilities but rather because of knowledge gaps?” Also, it makes me wonder how a student’s self-efficacy could have tarnished effects because of knowledge gaps, yet the emphasis is placed on a learning skills gap.
Gaining insight into the knowledge in which students’ possess before diving into a topic of discussion is an effective tool for measuring the learning targets that need to be established while preparing to engage in a lesson study. With a diverse group of learners and learning styles, teachers have a large variety of cultures and belief systems that make up a classroom environment. These systems of knowledge can entice student-led discussions to be more enriched and resourceful when scholars are engaged in the learning process by activating their prior knowledge bank.
One effective strategy for leveraging prior knowledge is through pre-assessments, which provide insights into students' existing understanding and misconceptions about a topic. Armed with this information, educators can tailor their instruction to address specific areas of need and build upon students' prior understanding. For example, before introducing a unit on ecosystems, a teacher might administer a pretest to assess students' familiarity with key concepts such as food chains and habitats. Based on the results, the teacher can then design instruction that scaffolds learning experiences and provides targeted support to address knowledge gaps.
Furthermore, formative assessment techniques such as concept mapping activities or bellringers can serve as valuable tools for gauging students' prior knowledge and activating their thinking before diving into new content. Classroom discussions and collaborative learning experiences also provide opportunities for students to share their diverse perspectives and build upon each other's prior knowledge. By creating a supportive learning environment where students feel empowered to contribute their insights and experiences, educators can foster a culture of inquiry and promote deeper engagement with the curriculum. John Hattie emphasizes the significance of activating students' prior knowledge to enhance learning outcomes. By incorporating evidence-based practices that leverage students' existing understanding, educators can create more inclusive and effective learning experiences that empower students to succeed.
Overall, while there are multiple key research findings that support Research-Based Instructional Strategies (RBIS) for Knowledge Coherence, one finding shows when readers are struggling with a topic, a knowledge boost can help by increasing engagement with a resource for building coherence.


In closing, as educators, we are not merely providers of information; we are architects of possibility, sculpting the minds of future generations and laying the groundwork for a brighter tomorrow. It is imperative for us to recognize the profound impact of our efforts and to commit ourselves to the relentless pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning.
In this fast-paced world of constant change and innovation, the importance of continuous learning and knowledge acquisition cannot be overstated. As we strive to meet the diverse needs of our students and navigate the complexities of the educational landscape, let us embrace a mindset of curiosity, resilience, and flexibility. Let us seek out opportunities for growth, challenge our assumptions, and engage in meaningful dialogue with our peers.
As we embark on this journey together, let us remember the words of Schoolhouse Rock: 'Knowledge is power.' So, let us empower ourselves and those we serve to embrace the transformative potential of education and to embark on a lifelong quest for knowledge, understanding, and growth. In doing so, we not only enrich our own practice but also inspire those around us to reach new heights of achievement and fulfillment. I invite you to reflect on the content of this article and consider its implications for your own practice. How can you leverage the insights gained here to enhance your teaching, engage your students, and foster a culture of lifelong learning in your classroom or school community?
Region 7 Blog, Jeannie Hipp, Knowledge Coherence, Center for Academic Review , agency, self-efficacy, knowledge, knowledge coherence
Freepik, n.d.
Region 7 Blog, Jeannie Hipp, Center for Academic Review , agency, self-efficacy, knowledge, knowledge coherence Jeannie Hipp is an RLA Specialist for The Center for Academic Review at Region 7 ESC. With 21 years of teaching experience in various school districts, her last stop was Quitman ISD before joining us at Region 7 ESC. Jeannie has taught English Language Arts in multiple grade levels including Elementary and Middle School, as well as serving in the role of Reading Interventionist. She has a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and gained experience with High Quality Instructional Materials throughout her years of experience reviewing materials and serving on collaborative teams for the Instructional Materials Quality Evaluation (IMQE) process.
First Things First (2024). Brain Development in Early Childhood. Retrieved from
Washington Post (2023). Gray Matter Peaks Earlier Than Thought. Retrieved from
National Institutes of Health (NIH) (2024). Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science. Retrieved from
Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2021). Rebound. Corwin.
Recht, D. R., & Leslie, L. (1988). Effect of Prior Knowledge on Good and Poor Readers' Memory of Text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(1), 16-20.
Hattie, J. (n.d.).
Freepik. (n.d.). Child with autism living in a fantasy world [Image]. Freepik.