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Runninghead:LEARNINGANDPREVIOUSKNOWLEDGE

LearningandPreviousKnowledge
ColbyR.Ensing
MichiganStateUniversity


LEARNINGANDPREVIOUSKNOWLEDGE

Abstract
WithintheessayLearningandPreviousKnowledge,themaintopicsarewhatlearning
isandhowtoteachsothatstudentslearn.Theconclusionsmadewithintheessaywere
influencedandsupportedbythefirstthreechaptersof
HowPeopleLearn:Brain,Mind,
Experience,andSchool
byBransford,Brown,Cocking,Donovan,andPelligrino(2000).The
essaywaswrittenforCEP810atMichiganStateUniversitytoaddresswhatIunderstandabout
howpeoplelearn.LearningandPreviousKnowledgefocusesonthefactthatactivatingprior
knowledgeisnecessaryforstudentstoassimilateandaccommodatenewinformation.Inother
words,teachersmustmakesurestudentsareconnectingnewinformationtooldinformationin
ordertolearn.Italsofocusesonmodelingandhowitservesasthepreviousknowledgestudents
needinordertosolveproblems.Withoutseeingtheprocessbeforedoingitthemselves,students
willstruggleunderstanding.Thefinalideapresentedishowtechnologyassiststeachersdoboth
modelingandactivatingpriorknowledge.

LEARNINGANDPREVIOUSKNOWLEDGE

Thewaterofthedistrictswimmingpoolwasalwayschilly,butnothingfeltbetterthan
buildinglegstrengthdoingthenoarmdolphinkickfor200yards.Squeezingourlegstogether,
fluidlymovingourkneesinanoutbutnevermovingourfeetseparately,itbecameafamiliar
motion.IoftenlookedatthelaneoverwithenvywheretheJonestwinswereusingtheirarms
withthedolphinkick.Thestroketheyweredoingwasunfamiliarthough.Untilafteracouple
weeks,thecoachwantedustodo50yardsofthebutterfly.Modelingforushowtodothe
stroke,theJonestwinsfluidlymovedtheirkneesinandout,nevermovingtheirfeetseparately
andswungtheirarmsoutofthewaterinacircularmotion.Ieasilyrecognizedthedolphinkick,
andwiththeknowledgeofhowtodohalfofthestrokealready,therestcameprettyeasy.Like
meandthebutterflystroke,anylearneracquiresnewknowledgeandunderstandingby
connectingwhattheyalreadyknowtothenewinformationbeingpresented.Becauselearningis
adependentofpreviousknowledge,itisessentialforstudentstomakeconnectionsbetweenthe
newandoldintheclassroom.
Inordertolearnandunderstandtothefullest,onepracticethatisimportantforteachers
todointheclassroomisbeingawareofthepreviousknowledgehisorherstudentslikelyhave
andconnectnewinformationtothat.Thisisessentialbecauselearningcannotbedonewithout
assimilatingandaccommodating.AccordingtoBransford,Brown,Cocking,Donovan,and
Pelligrino(2000)inthebook
HowPeopleLearn:Brain,Mind,Experience,andSchool
,

Studentsmayhaveknowledgethatisrelevanttoalearningsituationthatisnotactivated.By
helpingactivatethisknowledge,teacherscanbuildonstudentsstrengths(p.68).Inother
words,theteacherisresponsibleformakingstudentsawareofhowwhattheyalreadyknow
connectstoanewconcept.Forexample,ifIdidnotteachstudentsaboutspeculationand
overspendingduringtheJazzAge,mystudentswouldfinditnearlyimpossibletoexplainwhy


LEARNINGANDPREVIOUSKNOWLEDGE

theGreatDepressionbegan.Inorderforstudentstolearn,Ihavetoinformthemofthe
connectionbetweenthetwodecades.Ialsohavetothenaskstudentstoconnectwhatthey
learnedaboutoverspendingandtheGreatDepressiontooverspendingandtheirpersonallives.
Thus,makingtheseconnectionsbetweenoldandnewinformationarenecessaryordertolearn
andtransferteachersmustmakestudentsawareofwhentheyhavethepreviousknowledge
alreadystoredtounderstandaneverbeforeseenidea.
AccordingtoEggenandKauchak(2012)intheirbook
EducationalPsychology
,
modelingisthechangesinpeoplethatresultfromobservingtheactionsofothers(pg.236).
Learningrequiresachangeinstudents,andthroughwatchingteachersorothers,theyacquire
knowledgeonhowtodoacertainthingwhichallowsthatchange.In
HowPeopleLearn:Brain,
Mind,Experience,andSchool
,itisstated,
Instructionthatenablesstudentstoseemodelsof
howexpertsorganizeandsolveproblemsmaybehelpful(Bransfordetal.,2000,pg.49).Itis
importantforteacherstoincorporateexamplesofhowtosolveproblemsintheclassroomsince
itcouldincreaselearning.Forinstance,whenteachingfigurativelanguageinEnglishLanguage
Artsmyfirstyearofteaching,Igavestudentsapassageandtoldthemtofindthefigurative
language.Somestudentsweresuccessful,butotherswerenot.Whenteachingthesameunitmy
secondyear,Imodeledhowtofindfigurativelanguageinapassagebeforeaskingstudentstodo
thesamewithadifferentpassage.Isawtheamountofsuccessfulstudentsincreaseduetothe
knowledgeacquiredthroughthemodeling.Clearly,ithelpsstudentsincreaselearningoncethey
canconnectanewconcepttothemodelseeninclass.
Withoutateachermodelingandactivatingastudentspriorknowledge,itmakes
learning,understanding,andconceptualchangeverydifficult.Onewayinwhichteacherscan
dobothofthesethingsisusingtechnology.Insteadofjuststatinghowtodocertainthingsorthe
connectionsbetweenideas,technologyallowsstudentstoexploreconcepts,anditcantakethe


LEARNINGANDPREVIOUSKNOWLEDGE

placeoflecturing.Ifmyswimcoachhadusedatechnologywhichshoweda360degreeangleof
thebutterflystroke,theconnectionbetweenpriorknowledge(dolphinkick)andthemodeling
wouldhaveincreasedandexpeditedourunderstanding.Ifteachersdonotembracemodeling
andmakingstudentsawareofhownewinformationconnectswithold,thenstudentsuccesswill
notbeatitshighest.


LEARNINGANDPREVIOUSKNOWLEDGE

References
Bransford,J.,Brown,A.,Cocking,R,Donovan,M.,Pellegrino,J.(2000).
Howpeoplelearn:
Brain,mind,experience,andschool
.Washington,DC:NationalAcademyPress.
Eggen,P.,Kauchak,D.(2012).
Educationaltechnolog:WindowsonClassrooms
.UpperSaddle
River,NJ:Pearson.