Prior Knowledge

Guideline:  Determine and build on students’ prior experience and knowledge.

Learners 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., “Taking learning seriously”, Change, vol., 31, no. 4, p. 12 (1999).

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., How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., p. 66 (1999).

Science students’ preinstructional beliefs about the natural world often conflict sharply with many of the accepted scientific theories they are taught in school, and this is true across a wide variety of domains within biology, chemistry, and physics. Thus, the encounter with contradictory information is at the heart of knowledge acquisition in science. Students typically resist giving up their preinstructional beliefs.

Chinn, C. A., & Brewer, W. F. (1993). The Role of Anomalous Data in Knowledge Acquisition: A Theoretical Framework and Implications for Science Instruction. Review of Educational Research, 63(1), 1-49. doi: 10.3102/00346543063001001


Additional References

Angelo, T. & Cross, K., Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers, 2nd edition, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA (1993).

Ausubel, D., Novak, J. & Hanesian, H., Educational Psychology: A Cognitive View, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, p. 163 (1978).

Chi, M. T., Roscoe, R. D., Slotta, J. D., Roy, M., & Chase, C. C. (2012). Misconceived causal explanations for emergent processes. Cogn Sci, 36(1), 1-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1551-6709.2011.01207.x

Dochy, F., Segers, M. & Buehl, M., “The relation between assessment practices and outcomes of studies:  the case of research on prior knowledge”, Review of Educational Research, vol. 69, no. 2, pp. 145-86 (1999).

Taber, K.S., “The Mismatch between Assumed Prior Knowledge and the Learner’s Conceptions: a typology of learning impediments”, Educational Studies, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 159-171 (2001).

Tobias, S., “Interest, prior knowledge and learning”, Review of Educational Research, vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 37-54 (1994).


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