Research has shown that students’ prior knowledge about a subject can be both a blessing and a curse. It is true that we learn more quickly when we can connect the dots and draw on what we already know, but what if the knowledge is faulty? It is important for faculty to assess the accuracy of that prior knowledge before introducing new material that will impede a student’s progress.
To make the learning process efficient and reduce the learners’ cognitive load, it is important for instructors to explain clearly the relationship of new material to the knowledge previously learned and provide examples and concrete application of the new knowledge. Prior knowledge affects how a learner organizes new information and the examples provided to them help connect and apply that new information.
By beginning a class reviewing what has been previously discussed is a simple way to refresh that knowledge and have the learner prepared to discuss new information in relationship to their prior knowledge. It is important for faculty to remember that the learner that enters their classroom is not a blank slate but comes with prior knowledge both faulty and accurate. What they will learn is conditioned by what they already know.
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