The Differences of Prior Knowledge and Real learning

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Prior Knowledge is very important to learning. But in fact prior knowledge is based on history. (Ertmer & Newby, 1996; Ormrod, 2007) Real learning is about future. Learning is explore new things and make it usable in daily life or real practice. To be able as a teacher to bridge prior knowledge to new useful, meaningful information, it is necessary to understand what prior knowledge is and how prior knowledge is acting in learning. Furthermore it is important to know how prior knowledge can be used as a catalyst in learning. A teacher has to know how to use prior knowledge in a way that new knowledge can be used in practice on several circumstances and he has to vary on themes. Then transfer can occur. (Ormrod, 2007; Simons, 1999; Vosniadou, Loannides, Dimitrakopoulou, & Papademetriou, 2001) Teachers can have a considerable contribution to learning in classroom when they understand really how to create a learning environment that supports transfer in learning. But what teachers approach is, depends on their own insight and believes about prior knowledge and transfer. Research showed that there is a great variety between novice and expert teachers in their approach to learning. (Miller, 1990; Ten Cate, Snell, Mann, & Vermunt, 2004; Trigwell, Prosser, & Waterhouse, 1999) This paper examines those issues about what is, and how to use prior knowledge and what is an adequate teachers approach to facilitate use of prior knowledge and transfer in classroom. Outcomes from a survey done with one teacher in higher education of a Nursing teaching program is used as an example to show what kind of teaching approach is used and what issues in that approach can be improved and to point out what approach is very beneficial to learning. So what is prior knowledge? Prior knowledge is that what people already knows. Information stored in long term memory and can retrieved and used in working memory. There it becomes very important for learning. Because new information has to be linked to already existing information. This encoding of new information gives learners the ability to connect the information in to a meaningful way, and see total new concepts. (invoegen Ormrod) Those concepts contribute to someone's believing or insights how his world is build. Here misconception of prior knowledge appear. When new information is stored in a wrong correlation this new information will be used in future as prior knowledge. In another way, this prior knowledge are the assumptions and reality of that person for that moment. This hinders learners to accept or recognize that there is a misconception in his prior knowledge. Change this misconception, when even discovered by a teacher is hard to change. Because a conceptional change is demanded. (invoegen Meyer, Ormrod, simons). It is know that link the new information to existing concepts of knowledge, this new information has to be meaningful. Classroom situations can be helpful to make new information meaningful. Students have to understand in when and how this new information can be used. A teachers role is to provide students these kind of concepts. A teacher has to support learners by give a broad variety of examples wherein the new information could be used. This variety contains changes in contexts and structures . When a learner is able to make this new information useful for himself like create new contexts of understanding and apply this knowledge (i.e. skills) in practice transfer of knowledge occur. A teachers role in classroom is the provide a classroom climate where prior knowledge can increase, and transfer is facilitated. (invoegen simons,ten cate). Transfer has a wide range in diversity. This diversity can be occur separately or overlapping. There is positive and negative transfer, characterized by that new information is helpful in the other situation or in a negative way, the new information hinders the learner. For example now how a computer works and use that information on a new computer system with touchscreen. When a learner is searching for the keyboard and is helpless using the computer this can be seen as negative transfer. Another way how transfer is recognized is if transfer is specific or general. Specific transfer is characterized by the same context and structure wherein the skill or knowledge has to applied. In general transfer both structure and context is different to the original situation. For example, using competencies as a soccer trainer to accompany youngster in their play, can be useable and applicable as a nurse on a children's ward. A teacher has to vary on themes, contexts and structure to improve the effect of transfer in education. (invoegen;Ormrod, meyer, trigwell) But transfer of learning contains some paradoxes for learners which make it hard to achieve real transfer. New information has to identified as meaningful. But how can students recognize when new information is meaningful? So when use prior knowledge in a new situation and when is a situation similar of not? So when for example, general transfer is demanded, how can students use prior knowledge because the nature of the situation is almost not recognizable and maybe they will not see the relevancies of both, their prior knowledge or the new situation. (invoegen simons,Meyer). The teachers role, earlier mentioned, is a key role to support transfer. But how teachers are aware of prior knowledge or think of prior knowledge is effecting the way they support students in classroom. (Meyer bransford (how expert dif…). Even a teacher can be an expert or novice in teacher as students can be novice or expert in learning or being a professional. (invoegen benner) Novices use more guidelines, and step by step processing then experts. They use concepts of knowledge and are able to see coherencies in a split second by chunking information to a whole concept. So if a teacher is a novice or is not able to see higher concepts he is blindfolded to recognize misconceptions of prior knowledge, but even more the teacher will not be able to create a great variety of transfer in classroom. For example, when a student has a superficial understanding of knowledge and the teachers beliefs about prior knowledge are the same, and not using higher concepts of knowledge, information will not deepen out enough. This effects on how transfer will occur. (Meyer) Teachers can be supported by a some kind of guideline on how to understand and recognize (wrong) prior knowledge and how to be beneficial to transfer on learning in classroom. The CONTACT strategy, continues activation, based on a study done by Biemans and Simons (1995) revealed that in 5 steps students actually can support themselves to use in a beneficial way their prior knowledge. Those steps are search for old ideas, compare and contrast with new information, formulate new ideas, apply new ideas and evaluate new ideas. (invoegen biemans,simons). Maybe those steps can be used as a guideline for teachers as well. In the CONTACT strategy a computer program was facilitating students choices, in classroom the teacher can be that program too. In classroom a teacher has several handles to support transfer to a work based setting. A teacher has to make relations between concepts and make that concepts more explicit, give or design assignments so that students can find out what is relevant on their own, vary on context and structure of work, create learning environments that stimulate to use learned skills or knowledge (e.g. skills lab, or learning on the job) and give opportunities to reflect on practice. Maybe, a teacher has to go to all these steps for his own too. A teacher has to be a conceptional thinker and a reflective educator too. That makes him an expert, who has the insight to use the benefits and is aware about pitfalls of being an experts.


A questionnaire based on theory about the CONTACT strategy and insight about being a novice or expert teacher, was developed. This questionnaire contains 21 questions which can be scored on a 5 point likert scale, combined into three domains. Knowing about prior knowledge, use of prior knowledge in classroom and facilitating transfer in classroom. This questionnaire is called the QTATT-HE, Questionnaire Teachers Activities Toward Transfer in Higher Education. Before using this list as an instrument, the questions where presented to four teachers in education, specialized in doing research to do a face validity check, one teacher was ask to provide feedback about the content validity. Now computing's were done about construct validity. It was taken in mind that this questionnaire was used on one teacher to score teachers activities on use of prior knowledge and transfer in classroom.


The three domains where calculated by compute each domain and divided by number of issues in that topic. Highest possible score is 7, lowest is 1. The figure 1-7 shows that the higher the figure is, the more a teacher uses activities to either insights about knowing about prior knowledge, use of prior knowledge and facilitating transfer in classroom.





a. The introduction clearly describes the problem that is addressed in the assignment.

b. The introduction provides a summary of relevant previous research on the problem.

c. The introduction describes the purpose of the study.

d. The introduction describes the research question(s) that are addressed in the assignment.

e. The introduction provides a brief overview of how the study was set up.

2) Methods tell about questionnaire , etc

a. The materials (e.g. questionnaires used, interview questions, etc.), procedure and method for analyzing the data are described in sufficient detail.

3) Results

a. The results follow logically from the analysis.

4) Discussion 

a. The discussion repeats the purpose of the study

b. The discussion provides a theoretical interpretation of the results.

c. The discussion leads to conclusions that are the foundation for further recommendations.