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Valdosta State University
Department of Psychology
PSY310  Edcational Psychology
Instructor: John H. Hummel, Ph.D.

Study Questions/Review
Meaningful Learning

Chapter 8: Meaningful Learning

1. Define the following: inert knowledge; schema; advance organizer; elaboration; generative learning; discovery learning; receptive learning (3 phases) and expository teaching; scaffolding (relate to steps 1 & 2 of the LP); concepts; problem solving; functional fixedness; top-down v. bottom-up processing; critical thinking

2. What is the difference(s) between inert knowledge, rote learning, & meaningful learning? Can rotely learned knowledge be a prerequisite for meaningfulness? Why do people need an extensive background of facts (i.e., cultural literacy) in order for learning to be meaningful?

3. Describe how the dual processes of elaboration & organization, together, should make learning and retrieval easier for students.

4. Briefly summarize the various study strategies (underlining, note taking, summarizing, questions, outlining, scripting, etc.) and indicate their effectiveness for students. How would you, as a teacher, get your students to USE these methods? How would they help them develop metacognition?

5. Describe the four general principles of effective study/mathemagenic behaviors. (These are the outcomes students realize when they practice good study habits and include specificity. These 4 outcomes are also products of metacognition.)

6. Compare each point of the following methods: SQ4R (guide) and PQ4R; what is the 40/60 method and how is it different from SQ4R?

7. Describe the method ( rule-example-rule) used to teach concepts.

8. What is a means-end analysis?

9. Why does Ausubel believe that discovery learning (which many developmentalists and early childhood educators fervently hold to) is not appropriate for education?

10. Describe the three phases associated with expository teaching, and explain why Ausubel believes teachers should use a deductive teaching approach (what is it? What would an inductive teaching approach be?)

PSY 310 Review of Chapter 8: Meaningful Learning

1. Rote learning is information that is primarily memorized. As such, it may be a skill (such as the multiplication tables) or simply an isolated fact. Typically, factual information that has been memorized is, itself, not generally useful since it is not very detailed. Still, it is critically important to meaningful learning because it usually forms the basis/linkage by which new material being learned is "tied to" schemata/structures, and it provides a background for understanding. [Hirsch calls this background knowledge that is rotely memorized, cultural literacy.]

2. Meaningful learning is information that ties into previously learned materials and is immediately useful for the learner.

3. Advance organizers (Ausubel) are abstract general statements about materials-to-be-learned, and represent a top-to-bottom approach. They help students learn new material because it provides a context for the material and allows the new material to be related to information the student already possesses (even if it is only the advance organizer to which the student can relate the information). Still, an advance organizer is not real worthwhile unless the material it precedes is presented well. Information that is organized well (hierarchically, from general to specific) is learned easier by students and facilitates the effectiveness of the advance organizer especially if the teacher conveys to the students how the information is organized. Several additional strategies facilitate student learning. For example, embedded textual questions which evoke mathemagenic behaviors and elaboration (to tie the information to existing information) make material easier to learn and more meaningful. Collectively, these strategies produce generative learning because they make the learner an active participant in the process.

4. Students at all levels typically engage in similar study techniques. They underline and highlight what they believe to be critical information in texts (though they often highlight substantial portions! A better technique is to have them highlight only one sentence per paragraph-the thesis point). Note taking (both in verbal presentations and from textual material) is another widely used method. Taking "good" notes is a learned skill requiring drill, practice, and feedback (about their adequacy). After taking a set of notes, students should reorganize them hierarchically using key words and phrases (requiring them to actively process the information to make sense out of it) instead of narrative. This material (once it is checked for accuracy) then should be studied. Good notes should actively summarize and paraphrase the information it is based on. It also helps if students work collectively and cooperatively in order to evaluate and discuss material being studied (peers can act as tutors/teachers for one another). Self-generated tests are also effective.

A. There is no one set of study strategies that will adequately meet the needs of all students or all types of content. Thus, students (and perhaps the teacher should devote time to informing students about this) should focus on specificity (using specific strategies that are appropriate to the objectives for the topic. For example, if the objective was to recite a stanza of Shakespeare, paraphrasing would not be a good strategy to employ.); generativity (rework the material to be learned actively so it is more meaningful for the individual learner); executive monitory (learning about when to use certain strategies and evaluating them for effectiveness-being able to determine [before an exam!] whether one's strategies are effective or if they need modified); and personal efficacy (internal locus of control; that performance, ultimately, is a result of one's own effort). The following is a personal communication (Internet) on a type of direct instruction (precision teaching) called GENERATIVE Instruction.

From: "John W. Eshleman" <73767.1466@compuserve.com>

Date: Sat, 30 Mar 1996 00:10:45 EST

To: Multiple recipients of list BEHAV-AN <BEHAV-AN@VM1.NODAK.EDU>

Subject: Replicate GI

" A hallmark ofscience, according to Sidman (1960), is replication -- which provides the "soundest empirical test of the reliability of empirical data" (p. 70).

Johnson and Layng (1992) provide some rather astonishing data in terms of behavior change; data that I am certain that no other system of instruction has been able to achieve in terms of magnitude of effect.

Johnson and Layng (1992) have continued to directly replicate the effects of Generative Instruction, and Kent spent a decade directly replicating approximations to those same effects with his earlier incarnations of Generative Instruction.

With the publication of their 1992 article, Johnson and Layng (1992) "threw down the gauntlet," so to speak. They do not need to prove their point any more than they have done. (And part of the proof is the ongoing practical success of their efforts, which could be recognized as intersubject replication.) By "throwing down that gauntlet," so to speak, they issued a challenge to the behavioral world: "Here is what we did. Here is what we found. If you're skeptical, you're welcome to try it yourself." Now, they didn't say these words per se, but that is one way of interpreting their article. And, of course, that also represents a great way to do science. Don't believe someone? Then try it yourself!

Replicate Generative Instruction. Try it in your own classes or courses if you teach. Test it out. Try variations of it, and see what happens. See if you can outperform Generative Instruction (that's a good engineering objective, and in any case, why should we stop with X2 procedures and results?). That's the scientific challenge. Produce good results and multiply them.


Johnson, K.R., & Layng, T.V.J. (1992). Breaking the structuralist barrier: Literacy and numeracy with fluency. American Psychologist, 47, 1475-1490.

Sidman, M. (1960). Tactics of scientific research. New York: Basic Books

B. When learners discover/realize how they best learn certain types of information they can apply it (e.g., metacognitive strategies) to themselves and become more effective processors of information. This self-discovery is often via trial and error. Two examples of such metacognitive strategies that seemingly apply generally to students at all levels are SQ4R, and MURDER.


SQ4R is a study technique for textual materials that is based on work by Robinson (1946). {Robinson, F. P., (1946). Effective study. New York: Harper & Brothers.)} Gilbert and Gilbert (1992) state that if taught properly, students can mastery this study method by the end of the third grade! {Gilbert, T. F., & Gilbert, M. B. (12). Potential contributions of performance science to education. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Monograph #7, 35-41.}

"Smart" or intelligent people are different from other people in that they ask lots of questions, actively seek answers, and have a larger vocabulary than others.

The SQ4R method stands for: survey, question, read, recite, (w)rite, and review.

Start with an attitude when reading a text: If you are not reading and studying the text and notes as if you are preparing to take a test, you are wasting your time.

I. Survey and Question

A. surveying's goal is to help you i.d. the important questions answered in the chapter.

B. Steps in surveying: look at the beginning and end of the chapter for objectives and a summary. Read these carefully. These tell you up front what the important points in the chapter are in the author's opinion.

Then, skim the chapter from beginning to end; quickly reading headings, bold print, and captions for pictures, tables, etc. Turn the titles and headings into lead questions. Example: one heading in a PSY 250 book was "Brainwashing Techniques Used by Communists." Convert this into a question that you can answer.

Generating questions as you read (and writing them down) makes you an active learner. After surveying the chapter, you'll have a list of questions. Try to answer these questions before reading the test. Verbally summarized what you've already learned

II. Read the chapter to:

A. find the answers as quickly as you can to your generated questions, and for new answers to questions you didn't generate during your survey (it IS possible you missed something!)--write the new questions down. Don't read everything in the chapter.

III. Recite and (W)Rite answers and summaries

As you find (in the reading) an answer to a question, verbally recite a paraphrased answer to the question that accurately reflects the content of the source and, if possible, other information you already know (this integrates new with existing knowledge) and write it down; check for accuracy! This is critical--these questions and answers are what you'll be studying when preparing for exams, if they are wrong (or not totally correct) you won't do as well on the exam or in the class as you could.

Periodically, before a test, pull out your list and self test yourself on the questions by writing answers to them and checking them for accuracy. SAYING YOU KNOW AN ANSWER IS NOT THE SAME AS ACTUALLY WRITING IT DOWN.

IV. Review

Use spaced review to keep this content you've learned "fresh" on your mind. This also produces overlearning.

V. The results of SQ4R

1. surveyed chapter; 2. generated questions; 3. read selectively to answer questions in detail; 4. found questions you hadn't predicted (and their answers); 5. recited and written answers to questions; 6. summarized chapter's content verbally; 7. reviewed chapter by answering questions and summarizing the chapter. YOU SHOULD NOW KNOW THE CONTENT OF THE CHAPTER PRETTY WELL!

1. Several programs designed to teach students metacognition have been developed (reciprocal teaching; instrumental enrichment) besides the ones mentioned above, but their general utility (e.g., that they positively affect student achievement) has not yet been as clearly demonstrated.

C. When students understand general concepts, the specifics of the information are learned easier and become more meaningful. So, concept teaching is an important instructional strategy. Concepts are usually learned through observation or through definitions. Both are functional and require repetition.

1. The rule-example-rule illustrates the definitional approach. First, the students learn/memorize a rule. Then they are provided with examples that fit and do not fit the rule. Then they restate/paraphrase the rule for themselves and test it with other examples (restating it makes it more meaningful). Examples used should: (a) go from easy to hard, (b) be different from one another to minimize interference, and (c) compare and contrast fits and non-fits with the rule.

5. Transfer of training or generalization. Being able to apply information learned in one setting to different settings is critical to educational success. The extent of such generalization is usually a product of (a) how well the information was originally learned, and (b) the degree of correspondence/similarity between the two settings. In general concepts transfer more easily than specifics.

6. Problem solving.

A. Means-end-analysis. Similar to a task analysis. First, students must be taught to identify the goal of a problem (what the outcome is supposed to be, or what you are supposed to do). Break the provided information down into relevant and irrelevant (based on the identification of the outcome) pieces. Concentrate on only relevant stuff unless you still can't solve the problem (at this point, info. identified as irrelevant may have to be reevaluated). Be consciously aware of sources of functional fixedness (not being able to use things in new ways because of the way they have always been used).

7. In discovery learning students identify concepts and principles on their own. In such situations, teaching is providing the materials necessary to facilitate the student's self-initiated explorations. (This approach is associated with open schools, Montesorri, etc.; horrible stuff primarily because there is too much stuff to learn and no one has the time (motivation?) to learn it on their own.)

8. Ausubel's receptive learning/expository teaching says that the job of a teacher is to select what is to be learned, structure the environment to promote learning, use materials that are appropriate to the students' levels and are content-specific (e.g., deal with the information students are to learn), and are presented in an organized manner. Good stuff!

A. Three phases of receptive learning: presentation of an advance organizer; presentation of learning tasks/materials; and tying information to existing information via questions, feedback, etc.

B. Expository teaching requires that you also present information from general to specific (deductive teaching; "top-to-bottom") and that you use brief class discussions before presenting materials so students can share relevant background information (perhaps gleaned from your advance organizer).


Last Updated: May 20, 1997