Saturday, April 2, 2011

David Ausubel's Subsumption Theory

Ausubel receiving (or giving?) an "i dont know" award...hehehe...He is wearing glasses...
     
          It is a consensus among educators that experiential learning or hands on approach to learning is a very effective teaching strategy. John Dewey's "learning by doing" phrase had been used gazillion times especially by education students if asked what the best teaching strategy is. However, I just would like reiterate that to use this approach in teaching requires preparation and materials. And we can't just utilize this on everyday basis, as well as on simple objectives that do not necessarily require "experiential" activities. This is where expository teaching comes in.
          Expository Approach in teaching is the most common teaching strategy wherein the teacher explains the lesson to the pupils. This is different from Discovery Approach where the pupils discover for themselves what the concept is. Some refer expository approach as teacher-centered, traditional and "spoon-feeding". That this kind of approach is just giving the students everything and does not give them the chance to think. Perhaps this approach is sometimes blamed with low mastery and academic level of pupils.

        On the other hand, David Ausubel presented an idea that makes expository approach more meaningful using verbal or textual presentations. He proposed the use of?....of?...of?...any guess? hehehehe...Advance Organizers to aid for a more meaningful learning (LET alert: This always comes out in the exam). "These organizers are introduced in advance of learning itself, and are also presented at a higher level of abstraction, generality, and inclusiveness; and since the substantive content of a given organizer or series of organizers is selected on the basis of its suitability for explaining, integrating, and interrelating the material they precede, this strategy simultaneously satisfies the substantive as well as the programming criteria for enhancing the organization strength of cognitive structure." (1963 , p. 81).Tsk tsk tsk,,,why do I have to quote this, I'm having a nosebleed...hahaha... Seriously, in simpler terms, advance organizers are used preceding or prior to teaching/learning a new content that can be used by the learner to learn and understand the new content. It is a means of preparing the learner's cognitive structure for the learning experience about to take place. It is a device to activate the relevant schema or conceptual patterns so that new information can be more readily "subsumed" into the learner's existing cognitive structures.
      This is where "subsumption" comes in.David Ausubel's  Subsumption Theory is a theory which suggests that learning "is based upon the kinds of superordinate, representational, and combinatorial processes that occur during the reception of information." When new knowledge is created that is substantive and non-verbatim, and is related to existing knowledge, retention and learning are primed. Forgetting occurs when new knowledge becomes integrated into existing knowledge, and loses its individual identity. (Ausubel, 2010). Again, in simpler terms, subsumption theory is incorporating a new material to one's existing cognitive structure (sounds familiar uhuh? yes the answer can be found below), from the word itself "subsumption" or to "subsume". And order to do this, there has to be an existing material that provides a framework into which the new learning is related, to the previous information or concept the learner has. In simplest term, it represents learning as somewhat like a ladder. In order to learn a new material, there are prerequisites. You can't learn how to write if you don't know what the letters are. You can't cook sushi if you don't know about Japanese cuisine in the first place ( I included this because I'm hungry..hehehe). If no previous knowledge is available, advance organizers are presented in order to give learners a framework in order for the new information to be meaningful and be retained for recall and transfer.
          This theory is somewhat similar with some known concepts like Piaget's "schema" as well as Bruner's "spiral curriculum". 
        Ausubel is a proponent of deductive and expository teaching methods. That is why this theory is also called as Meaningful Verbal Learning.
        On my next post I will discuss further about advance organizers and specific examples of these organizers as well as the applications in classroom teaching and instruction.

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