Unit 3 Content Guide
Let's start this Unit with a brief overview on cognitive theory, which, as we know from the overview, is the basis for David Ausubel's Subsumption theory. In turn, Ausubel's work is the foundation for advance organizer principles, along with constructivist principles of learning.
Cognitive learning theories focus on brain-based learning and the associated mental processes. Cognitivism grew out of behaviorism, but diverged and became its own theory, which seeks to answer how and why people learn via cognitive processes. Rote learning or memorization is considered marginally useful for learning and teaching, while the majority of the focus is on how learners process new information and make it meaningful.
Constructivism developed from cognitivism, and focuses on experiential learning, and the unique experience of each individual learner. Constructivism considers the perceptions and knowledge already held by a learner as highly influential in the learning process.
According to most cognitive and constructivist theorists, information will not mean anything or be useful to the learner unless there is a relevant context for its use or application. Learning transfer and meaning is highly prioritized in both approaches.
Jerome Bruner and David Ausubel were both highly regarded in their time as cognitive theorists, and they agreed on much of what cognitivism contributed to educational psychology. They also contributed to constructivism in their theoretical development as both believed that a learner held valuable keys to their own learning and should take an active role in it to be successful. Their perspectives differed however, when it came to the importance of meaningful learning over discovery learning.
As you can see from the video, Ausubel's theories place focus on prior learning whereas Bruner believes use of a clear schema in designing curriculum will affect learning most. In fact, it was Bruner who coined the term "scaffolding." Ausubel, however, believes more firmly that the provision of meaning is paramount.
For Ausubel, meaningful learning is characterized by three primary elements: Learner choice, prior knowledge, and the processes of linking new and exisiting knowledge. This should sound familiar! When we looked at the basic components of the advance organizer approach to instruction, these elements were mentioned. Please review Unit 2 if you are having trouble making a connection between the theory we are discussing here and the basic ingredients of the approach.