David Ausubel

external image Ausubel2.jpg

David Ausubel (1918-2008) attended the University of Pennsylvania and afterwards, successfully completed medical school at Middlesex, followed by a Ph.D in Developmental Psychology at Columbia. As a practicing psychiatrist, he was influenced and inspired by Piaget's ideas; he went on to publish an impressive breadth of work. Ausubel's theories, considered pertinent for educators, focuses on the complex arena of verbal learning and casts aside behaviourist views as insufficient. Ausubel explored "meaning" and established that the consciousness of the learner must convert meaning in the world around them into the content they currently hold. Meaningful Learning Theory asserts that reception and discovery are established "to form a representational equivalence between language (symbols) and mental context" (Cooper, 2009). Strong comparisons can be made between the ideas of Asusbel and Bruner through the Meaningful Learning Theory. While similar, however, Bruner's work was more heavily structured around the discovery process whereas Ausubel focused on verbal learning. In addition, Ausubel held a second belief, delineated in the Subsumption Theory, in which he discusses the importance of creating structures to incorporate new materials. New learning cannot take place, according to Ausubel, unless a cognitive structure exists and is the framework for which new learning can link, or be subsumed. Finally, Ausubel's theories can be applied in a classroom context by using an Advanced Organizer, such as a concept map, which can provide an overview of the information to be learned. It prepares the learner's existing cognitive structures for the new learning, ideas, or concepts. This, he asserts, leads to meaningful meaning instead of rote learning.

Therefore, if you haven't already, considering the "Big Picture" of Constructivism may be helpful as an earlier starting place rather than later. It might be helpful to first check out our Concept Map and after your self-guided exploration, return to the concept map to address the activity question.

Other Examples of Using Advanced Organizers:
Watch as this teacher introduces a middle-school English class studying Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird with an advanced organizer framework:

Cooper, S. David Ausubel: Meaningful Verbal Learning and Subsumption Theory. In Theories of Learning in Educational Psychology. Retrieved from