I am looking for a word/phrase that would mean something of the sort "knowing what others (e.g., students) know in a subject".

I am looking for a word similar to empathy, which is defined by Oxford Dictionary as "The ability to understand and share the feelings of another." The word/phrase in this regard will have a meaning "The ability to understand the knowledge of others."

I hope I clearly stated my problem.


@FumbleFingers asked what kind of "knowledge" I mean. Basically I am dealing with a middle/high school teachers' knowledge of his/her students' knowledge in a subject, e.g., physics.

More precisely, teachers' knowledge of what pre-instructional knowledge (or misconceptions or difficulties) his/her students have that might facilitate (or hinder in cases of misconceptions and difficulties) planned instruction.

@Graffito If I understand you correctly, I leaning more towards "to envisage things from other's perspective." My explanation above, I hope, clarifies what I am after.

  • What kind of "knowledge" do you mean? The ability to understand the theory of relativity, for example? Presumably not the ability to "understand" quantum theory, since we're always being assured that nobody really understands that. And not the ability to understand how societies should be governed, for example, since everyone has different ideas on things like that. – FumbleFingers Jan 29 '16 at 14:29
  • Are you refering to learning/understanding (cap)ability ? or to envisage things from other's perspective ? – Graffito Jan 29 '16 at 15:51
  • Welcome to EL&U. The following is the rule of this community. Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests. Please edit your question accordingly. – user140086 Jan 29 '16 at 16:03

The teacher has foresight into the problems a student might encounter. The teacher is prescient of the issues a student may have.

: having prescience, or knowledge of things or events before they exist or happen; having foresight

  • Prescient was what I was thinking too. Since you have already answered, +! – BiscuitBoy Jan 30 '16 at 16:04
  • I like this answer but would "cognizant" be better than "prescient"? Prescient sounds a bit supernatural to me. – Al Maki Jan 30 '16 at 17:06
  • I feel cognizant has the connotation of "awareness" rather than "foresight". – jxh Jan 31 '16 at 2:25
  • Prescient seems to be a good choice. Even cognizant with the meaning "awareness" seems to fit the purpose. A teacher needs to be aware of the misconceptions students generally have related to a topic or difficulties they face in learning that topic. Doesn't empathy also contain a meaning of "awareness of how others feel"? In that sense, it seems I can use both words, like so: A teacher is cognizant about (is this a correct use?)/ prescient of student's pre-instructional knowledge related to optics. – Ufuk YILDIRIM Feb 2 '16 at 9:36
  • To me, awareness has a broad spectrum, but is usually applied at the low end, where the person has heard of the problem, but may not know of a solution. Whereas, prescience will imply the person actively takes steps to head off problems before they arise. – jxh Feb 2 '16 at 10:26

I assume this teacher knows what his or her students know based on working with them in the classroom, testing, etc. In other words, we're talking about an experiential understanding, rather than mental telepathy, right?

In that spirit, I think insight would be a better choice than foresight, though it may still miss the mark.

One could say the teacher and students "are on the same mental wavelength," though I'm not sure how to condense that to one word.

You could also say their minds were connected, linked or joined together. Another possibility is something like "they were thinking in sync."

Then there's mind melding, as popularized by Spock. There's also the classic "she could read their minds" or "she was a mind reader."

In the meantime, it seems like there should be a word very similar to empathy but focusing on thoughts, as you suggested. If no one can think of such a word here, I wonder if someone might have a suggestion on the Philosophy forum. I'd like to learn about such a word myself.

  • Teacher knows what his/her student might learn or face difficulties in learning based on working with earlier students or reading related educational research. Thought I liked the suggestions offered by both jxh and Al Maki, I am still thinking, like you, there should be a word similar to empathy focusing on cognition. I don't know how to approach this in the Philosophy forum though. – Ufuk YILDIRIM Feb 2 '16 at 9:48

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