4.01.2010

Concepts in learning

I recently ran across two educational psychologists, Ausubel and Novak, that argue for a conceptual basis for learning.  While philosophically, they differ in their definition of concepts with Objectivism, they offer an approach to learning that focuses on conceptual understanding of knowledge, the relationship between concepts and the necessity of context when presenting information to students.  This approach emphasizes the importance of "meaningful learning" as opposed to "rote learning". 

According to Ausubel and Novak, meaningful learning occurs only when new concepts are carefully defined, when examples of the concept  relate to a learner's context, and if the new concept is integrated with the learner’s prior conceptual framework.  Because learners have free will, they must be motivated to integrate the knowledge.  In rote learning, the learner memorizes the conceptual definitions or memorizes the links between concepts without real understanding.  Such rote learning is quickly forgotten.  Meaningful learning and rote learning exist on a continuum.

While I am still in the early stages of reviewing Ausubel's and Novak's research, it looks like a promising research stream.  It reminds me of the approach used at the VanDamme Academy.  If anyone is familiar with their work, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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