Individualised strategies for prior knowledge activation

Sandra Wetzels

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisThesis 1: fully internal

    59 Downloads (Pure)


    This dissertation investigates how prior knowledge activation can be tailored to learners’ level of prior knowledge in order to increase the beneficial effects of prior knowledge activation on subsequent learning. A theoretical framework for prompting prior knowledge activation and reinforcing the activation process in the science domain is presented. This framework provides more insights in how pictures, animations, mobilisation, perspective taking, and retrieval-directed note taking can be used to support prior knowledge activation. Pictures and animations are assumed to be suitable prompts for activating prior knowledge in the science domain. In addition, mobilisation and perspective taking are considered suitable strategies for activating learners’ prior knowledge. Furthermore, retrieval-directed note taking (i.e., note taking during prior knowledge activation) is assumed to reinforce the activation process. Finally, it is argued that the strength of these prompting and reinforcing effects is influenced by learners’ level of prior domain knowledge. These assumptions are investigated in three studies. The results of these studies show that prior knowledge activation has beneficial effects on learning, especially if it is tailored to learners’ level of prior domain knowledge. Retrieval-directed note taking can reinforce the activation process but only for learners who have prior knowledge that can be externally represented but that has not yet developed into a coherent organised structure. Second, the strategy used to activate learners’ prior knowledge should also be aligned to how much learners already know about a certain domain. Bottom-up oriented strategies such as mobilisation are especially suitable for learners with lower levels of prior knowledge, whereas top-down oriented strategies such as perspective taking result in more effective prior knowledge activation for learners with higher levels of prior knowledge. Finally, representations used to prompt prior knowledge activation should also be tailored to learners’ prior knowledge, where verbal-only representations are most suitable at lower levels of prior knowledge, and animations and pictures are most suitable at higher levels of prior knowledge.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Open Universiteit: faculties and services
    • van Merrienboer, Jeroen, Supervisor
    • Kester, Liesbeth, Co-supervisor
    Award date18 Dec 2009
    Place of PublicationMaastricht
    Print ISBNs978 90 79447 34 3
    Publication statusPublished - 18 Dec 2009


    • prior knowledge activation
    • retrieval-directed note taking
    • mobilisation
    • perspective taking
    • pictures
    • animations
    • prior knowledge


    Dive into the research topics of 'Individualised strategies for prior knowledge activation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this