Academic Technology Center
Teaching with Technology Collaboratory

Advanced Organizers

April 9, 2007

Students often have difficulty making connections between what they already know and new material being presented in their classes. To help students make these connections more quickly and concretely, faculty members might consider using Advanced Organizers. Advanced Organizers, which have a significant research base supporting their use, facilitate the recall of prior learning by placing it in the context of the new knowledge being learned, thus creating a “scaffolding” effect that enables students to understand and retain learning for longer periods of time.

Advance Organizers consist of more than just a basal summary of information, or of simply telling students what to focus upon, though these approaches are better than nothing. Advanced Organizers should take on a form that stimulates multiple learning modalities (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.). Some examples include concept maps that can be designed with applications such Inspiration, Microsoft Visio, or PowerPoint, charts and images created using Photoshop Elements, Excel, or other imagery software, audio podcasts or vodcasts, interactive learning objects, or some combination that topically treats the new information in a visual or multimodal manner.

In a University setting where the dominant mode of teaching is still the lecture, students are forced to make connections with their prior learning almost entirely on their own, which is one reason why so little of straight lectures is actually retained by learners (less than 20% according to Dale, 1969). Advanced Organizers can help students to bridge these difficulties by activating what they already know in the context of new learning.