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Meaningful Learning

When children learn and apply their knowledge in the practical life, that learning becomes meaningful.

Meaningful learning is a process of recognizing a relationship between new information and something else already stored in long-term memory. When we use words like comprehension of understanding, we are talking about meaningful learning. For e.g. my niece celebrates her birthday on March 21st which she easily relate it with one of our festival/occasion known as NAVROZ

Conditions that facilitate meaningful learning:

Research clearly indicates that meaningful learning is more effective than rote learning.

Three conditions probably facilitate meaningful learning

  1. The student has meaningful learning set
  2. The student has previous knowledge to which the new information can be related
  3. The student is aware that previously learned information is related to new information.
  4. A meaningful learning set.

When students approach a learning task with an attitude that they can make sense out of information-that is, when they have a meaningful learningset-they are more likely to learn that information meaningfully. For example, students who recognize that chemical reactions occur in accordance with familiar mathematical principles are more likely to make sense out of those reactions. Students who realize that historical events can often be explained in terms of human personality are more likely to understand why World War II occurred.

Does a teacher expect examples already presented in the textbook. Instead, demand that students generate new examples? How we present learning task clearly affects the extent to which students adopt a meaningful learning (Ausubel et al… 1978). Ideally, we must communicate our belief that students can and should make sense of the things they study.

  • Relevant prior knowledge.

Meaningful learning can only occur when long-term memory contains information to which a new idea can be related-that is. When long-term memory contains a relevant knowledge base, students will better understand scientific principles if they have already seen those principles in action either in their own lives or in the laboratory. They will more easily learn the events of an important battle if they have previously visited the battlefield. They will better understand how large the dinosaurs really were if they have seen actual dinosaur’s skeletons at a museum of natural history. The more information a student has already stored in long-term memory the easier it is for that student to learn new information, because there more things with which that new information can be associated.

  • Awareness of the relevance of prior knowledge.

Students often have prior information that relates to something new without ever realizing that this is the case. It may never occur to students that the family feud in Romeo and Juliet is similar to neighborhood disputes or, more broadly to racism. It may never occur to them that a seed is a plant’s version of a chicken egg. It may never occur to them that fractions symbolize something they already know-division.

Too often, teachers assume that students make these “obvious” connections. Nevertheless, research tells us that students very frequently don’t make logical connections between new ideas and their prior knowledge. As a result, they often resort to rote learning strategies unnecessarily. We can facilitate meaningful learning by reminding students of things they know that have a direct bearing on a topic of classroom study (S. Carey, 1986; Machiels-Bongaerts. Schmidt. & Boshuizen, 1991; Resnick, 1989; spires, Donley & Penrose, 1990).

For example

  • We can relate piece of literature to the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of students themselves
  • We can explain historical events in terms of the foibles of human personality
  • We can point out instances when foreign language vocabulary is similar to words in English
  • We can tie science to student’s day-to-day observations and experiences
  • In addition, we can relate mathematics to such commonplace activities as cooking, building a tree house, or throwing a ball


Being a facilitator, we should frame and introduce such types of activities in class that help learners to work with “Minds on” along with “Hands on” strategies.

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User Comments
  1. Rehan Roshan

    On November 19, 2008 at 8:36 am



  2. kiran

    On November 19, 2008 at 8:37 am

    good one

  3. Zarin Bano

    On November 19, 2008 at 8:40 am

    I am a Mathematics teacher and find difficulty to integrate concepts with other dicsiplines. Can you plz suggest some of the tips?

  4. Khalid wali

    On November 19, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I would appreciate if you write another version of this article telling about how can we make meaningful learning with different examples.

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