Guideline Five | Prior Knowledge

5. Learning is more effective when students’ prior experience and knowledge are recognised and built on.

[L]earners construct meaning out of their prior understanding. Any new learning must, in some fashion, connect with what learners already know … learners construct their sense of the world by applying their old understanding to new experiences and ideas.”
Schulman, L. 1999, “Taking learning seriously”, Change, vol. 31, no. 4, p. 12.

Effective teaching supports positive transfer by actively identifying the relevant knowledge and strengths that students bring to a learning situation and building on them.
Bransford, J., Brown, A. & Cocking, R. 1999, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, National Academy Press, Washington, DC, p. 66.

If I had to reduce all of educational psychology to just one principle, I would say this: the most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows.”
Ausubel, D., Novak, J. & Hanesian, H. 1978, Educational Psychology: A Cognitive View, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, p. 163.


Toolkit Guideline 5


Online Resources

What They Don’t Know Can Hurt Them: The Role of Prior Knowledge in Learning. Marilla Svinicki. University of Texas. link 

Learning in Interactive Environments: Prior Knowledge and New Experience Institute for Enquiry. Jeremy Roschelle. University of Massachusetts. link 

This Student Is Driving Me Nuts! University of Washington. link

The Relevance of Prior Knowledge in Learning and Instructional Design, Telle Hailikari. link

Recognize Who Your Students Are, Carnegie Mellon link