Ausubel's meaningful learning re-visited

T. G. K. Bryce, E. J. Blown

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This review provides a critique of David Ausubel’s theory of meaningful learning and the use of advance organizers in teaching. It takes into account the developments in cognition and neuroscience which have taken place in the 50 or so years since he advanced his ideas, developments which challenge our understanding of cognitive structure and the recall of prior learning. These include (i) how effective questioning to ascertain previous knowledge necessitates in-depth Socratic dialogue; (ii) how many findings in cognition and neuroscience indicate that memory may be non-representational, thereby affecting our interpretation of student recollections; (iii) the now recognised dynamism of memory; (iv) usefully regarding concepts as abilities or simulators and skills; (v) acknowledging conscious and unconscious memory and imagery; (vi) how conceptual change involves conceptual coexistence and revision; (vii) noting linguistic and neural pathways as a result of experience and neural selection; and (viii) recommending that wider concepts of scaffolding should be adopted, particularly given the increasing focus on collaborative learning in a technological world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalCurrent Psychology
Early online date26 Apr 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Apr 2023


  • Ausubel's meaningful learning
  • advance organizers
  • Socratic dialogue
  • conceptual change
  • representational and non-representational memory


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