What is Ausubel’s Theory: How to Apply Meaningful Learning

David Ausubel is an educational psychologist who is popular with the theory of meaningful learning or what is often called Ausubel’s theory. Ausubel himself emphasizes the importance of meaningful learning and also the importance of repetition before the start of learning. According to Ausubel, learning can be categorized into two dimensions. The first dimension is related to the way information or material is presented to students through acceptance or discovery. Then the second dimension is related to how students can relate this information to existing cognitive structures, which include facts, concepts, and also generalizations that students have learned and remembered.

According to Ausubel, in the first stage of learning, information can be communicated to students in the form of acceptance learning by presenting information in a final form or requiring students to find their own material to be taught. Then at the second level, students connect or relate this information to the knowledge they already have. In this case, there will be a meaningful learning process.

This Ausubel theory is a theory that was first put forward by David Paul Ausubel, who is a child psychiatrist and also a well-known academic working in the fields of educational psychology, ego development, general psychology, drug addiction, and also forensic psychiatry. Throughout his career, both as a child psychiatrist and as a Professor at New York University, he has published numerous scientific papers and books that have contributed to and influenced the field of educational psychology that he is devoted to.

Until now, various kinds of thoughts, results from research, and also ausubel theories are still very relevant to be taught, and also applied, especially in the field of educational psychology. Below are some explanations about Ausubel’s theory.

Ausubel’s biography

David Paul Ausubel was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York in 1918. This Ausubel was a University of Pennsylvania alumnus who graduated from Middlesex University Medical School and earned a Ph.D in developmental educational psychology at Columbia University. The process of his journey in the world of education began in the world of medicine when he was an apprentice at the New York City Department Hospital, Manhattan, as well as in Little Italy and Chinatown in 1944 as an assistant surgeon and also a general psychiatrist.

Then in 1950, he got a position with the Bureau of Educational Research at the University of Illinois. Where he worked there for approximately 16 years and it was there that Ausubel began to publish various works in the field of cognitive psychology extensively. Then in 1966, he finally left the University of Illinois to accept a position in the department of Applied Psychology at the Ontario Institute, Toronto. After that, in 1968 to be precise, he became a Professor and also Head of the Department of Psychology Education, New York University Undergraduate School until he retired from education in 1973.

After Ausubel retired, he returned to practice child psychiatry at Rockland Psychiatric. His main interests in psychiatry are general psychopathology, drug addiction, ego development, and also forensic psychiatry. Ausubel has published several books discussing developmental and educational psychology as well as more than 150 articles in psychology and psychiatric journals. Then in 1976, he received the Thorndike Award from the American Association of Psychologists for “Honorary Degree for Contributions to Educational Psychology”. Ausubel retired from professional life in 1994 with the intention of spending time as a writer and producing four books. In the end, Ausubel passed away on July 9, 2008.

Ausubel Learning Theory

Ausubel’s theory relates to how individuals learn a number of meaningful materials from textual or verbal, presentations, or settings as well as other actions in schools or other educational institutions. According to Ausubel, learning is based on the types of superordinate processes, representations, and also combinations that occur during the reception of information. A major process in this learning is subsumption, in which new material is related to relevant ideas in existing cognitive structures, based on nonverbal substantives.

In addition, according to Ausubel, learning can be classified into two dimensions, including:

1. The first dimension is the dimension related to the way in which information is conveyed or subject matter can be communicated to students in the form of acceptance or discovery learning.
2. The second dimension concerns how students can relate this information to existing cognitive structures. The two dimensions, namely acceptance or discovery and memorization or meaning, will not show a simple dichotomy, but are a continuum process.

Types of Learning According to Ausubel

Based on the two-dimensional classification of learning that has been described above, we can understand that acceptance as well as discovery from the learning process is not simple and includes a different continuum process. Thus, the process of acceptance and discovery also has several different types. According to Ausubel, there are four types of learning, which include the following:

1. Learning By Meaningful Discovery

This type of learning will link the knowledge they already have with the subject matter being studied. Or conversely, students find knowledge first compared to what they will learn. Then the discovery will be linked to existing knowledge.

2. Learning By Meaningless Inventions

This type of learning is a lesson that students will learn and discover for themselves without associating what they already have, then they memorize it.

3. Learn to Accept Meaning

Namely the subject matter that has been arranged logically and then conveyed to the students until the final form. Then, the new knowledge they get will be linked to other knowledge they already have.

4. Learn To Accept Meaninglessness

That is, lesson materials that have been arranged logically are then conveyed to students until the final form. After that, the new knowledge they get is memorized without associating it with other knowledge they already have.

Meaningful Learning Process (Meaningful Learning)

Through various kinds of thoughts about finding and accepting meaningful and meaningless, then the concept of meaningful learning or a meaningful learning process is formed. It is said that this learning process will be much more meaningful and useful for students if they experience or go through a meaningful learning process. Ausubel said that what is meant by meaningful learning is learning that can link the previous learning material with the learning material that will be studied later.

Ausubel’s theory is closely related to Constructivism learning theory. Both emphasize the importance of learning to associate new phenomena, experiences, and facts into the understanding systems that students already have and emphasize the importance of an assimilation of new experiences into concepts that students already have.

Ausubel also believes that educators must also be able to develop students’ cognitive potential through meaningful learning processes. That means, being able to associate a phenomenon, experience, and also various kinds of facts in their environment. Thus, students will have an attitude of social behavior that is formed from an experience that they apply, not just mere memorization and formality.

Ausubel Learning Principles

Based on Ausubel’s view of meaningful learning, he proposes three principles of learning, which are as follows:

1. Presentation of Advance Organizer

Advance organizers will direct students to the material they will later learn and help them to recall relevant information and can be used to help impart new knowledge. The advance organizer is concerned with the ideas conveyed in a lesson to provide information to students who are ready in their minds and provides a broad organizational scheme in the form of more specific information.

2. Presentation of Learning Tasks or Materials

A lesson that uses new material should be delivered by giving lectures, discussing a film, or giving assignments to students. Ausubel also emphasizes the need to maintain students’ attention as well as the need to organize course material clearly to relate to the arrangement that has been planned in the advance organizer. He suggested a process called progressive differentiation, in which a step-by-step progress from general concepts to specific concepts.

3. Strengthening Cognitive Organization

In the third phase of the ausubel learning principle, teachers are advised to incorporate new information into the planned lesson plans for the initial lesson by reminding their students how each particular detail relates to the big picture. In addition, students were also asked to see whether they understood the lesson with their previous knowledge and connected it to the organizations in the advance organizer.

Meaningful Learning Steps

Here are some steps in implementing meaningful learning or meaningful learning, including:

1. Define a learning objective.
2. Identify student characteristics, starting from initial abilities, learning styles, motivation, and so on.
3. Choose subject matter according to student characteristics and organize it into core concept forms.
4. Determine the topics and display them in the form of advance organizers that will be studied by students.
5. Study the core concepts and apply them in a real or concrete form.

Meanwhile, according to Herliani, the steps that are generally taken to apply Ausubel’s meaningful learning or meaningful learning are:

1. Advance Organizer or Handout

This is an initial presentation of the material that will be studied by students which can be in the form of handouts or a brief introduction about what students will learn in general. Through this handout, we can prepare students mentally to receive the material, if they already know the material that will be presented in the lesson.

2. Progressive Differential

The subject matter delivered by the teacher should be taught in stages. Starting with general things or concepts, then proceed to specific things with examples.

3. Integrative Reconciliation

In this stage, the teacher will provide an explanation of the similarities and differences between the concepts they already know and the concepts they have just learned.

4. Consolidation

Strengthening the material in the form of presenting more examples or exercises. So that students will understand better and be more ready to accept new material.

Those are some explanations about what Ausubel’s theory is and some ways to apply it. Hope it is useful.