Literature Review
Marissa C. Mizuno
National University

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for
TED 690 Capstone
Stacia Levy



This paper provides a review of literature that supports the idea that new learning should be
connected to prior learning and experience. This is addressed in Standard 1 of the Instructional
Practice Domain of the Nevada Educator Performance Framework.


Literature Review

Research suggests that prior knowledge has a significant impact on classroom learning.
Prior knowledge influences subsequent conceptual learning, perception and attention. As a
result, “learners use prior knowledge to select relevant information from graphics, add
information from their prior knowledge, and ultimately, develop a mental model (Cook, 2006, p.
1075).” Ultimately, what students know and how prior knowledge is activated during new
learning determines the extent to which new information will make sense to them.
Prior knowledge correlates with schema theory. According to schema theory, knowledge
is stored in long-term memory in arrangements of correlated themes and ideas. Thus, it is
organized and accessible when needed (Cook, 2006, p. 1076). By grouping related information
together, these memories are thought to readily available for relevant learning tasks. Students
use and manipulate knowledge and information using existing schemata, which allows them to
apply their knowledge to new situations. In science education, students make sense of course
content through existing conceptual structures. The way students interpret science content
correlates with the contexts and experiences that students are familiar with (Mesa, Pringle, &
King, 2014, p. 62). Thus, teachers have the important role of guiding and facilitating the process
of knowledge construction by addressing preconceptions, presenting course content within
relatable contexts, and providing students with experiences that allow them to recognize the
“viability of knowledge claims” and generate “new ways of thinking about phenomena (Mesa,
Pringle, & King, 2014, p. 62).”
Activities that identify and activate the prior knowledge of students allow teachers to
adapt instruction to meet individual needs and promote conceptual change (Mesa, Pringle, &
King, 2014, p. 62). While accurate prior knowledge helps students comprehend new



information, inaccurate prior knowledge can hinder future learning (Shapiro, 2004, p. 163).
Thus, teachers must take the time to address and correct any misconceptions in order to avoid the
augmentation of incorrect knowledge.



Cook, M. P. (2006). Visual representations in science education: The influence of prior
knowledge and cognitive load theory on instructional design principles. Science
Education, 90(6), 1073-1091.
Mesa, J. C., Pringle, R. M., & King, N. (2014). Surfacing students’ prior knowledge in middle
school science classrooms: Exception or the rule? Middle Grades Research Journal, 9(3),
Shapiro, A. M. (2004). How including prior knowledge as a subject variable may change
outcomes of learning research. American Educational Research Journal, 41(1), 159-189.