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(Subsumption Theory)
David Ausubel MD, PHD (1918-2008)

 Grew up in Brooklyn, New York

 Fields: Psychology, Educational Psychology
 Known for: Advance Organizers
 Influenced by: Jean Piaget
 Awards: Thorndike Award from the American
Psychological Association for "Distinguished
Psychological Contributions to Education“ (1976)
Subsumption Theory

 Ausubel's theory is concerned with how individuals learn large

amounts of meaningful material from verbal/textual
presentations in a school setting.
 According to Ausubel, learning is based upon the kinds of
superordinate, representational, and combinatorial processes
that occur during the reception of information.
Processes of Meaningful Learning

1. Derivative subsumption . This describes the situation in which newly

learned information is an instance or example of a concept previously
 So, let's suppose you have acquired a basic concept such as "tree". You
know that a tree has a trunk, branches, green leaves, and may have some
kind of fruit, and that, when fully grown is likely to be at least 12 feet tall.
Now you learn about a kind of tree that you have never seen before, let's
say a persimmon tree that conforms to your previous understanding of tree.
Your new knowledge of persimmon trees is attached to your concept of
tree, without substantially altering that concept in any way.
Processes of Meaningful Learning

2. Correlative subsumption. In a sense, you might say that this is more

"valuable" learning than that of derivative subsumption, since it enriches
the higher-level concept.
 Now, let's suppose you encounter a new kind of tree that has red leaves,
rather than green. In order to accommodate this new information, you
have to alter or extend your concept of tree to include the possibility of red
leaves. You have learned about this new kind of tree through the process
of correlative subsumption.
Processes of Meaningful Learning

3. Superordinate learning. You already knew a lot of examples of the

concept, but you did not know the concept itself until it was taught to
 Imagine that you were well acquainted with maples, oaks, apple trees,
etc., but you did not know, until you were taught, that these were all
examples of deciduous trees. This is superordinate learning.
Processes of Meaningful Learning

4. Combinatorial learning. It describes a process by which the new idea is

derived from another idea that is neither higher nor lower in the hierarchy,
but at the same level (in a different, but related, "branch"). You could
think of this as learning by analogy.
 For example, to teach someone about pollination in plants, you might
relate it to previously acquired knowledge of how fish eggs are fertilized.
Subsumption Theory

 A primary process in learning is subsumption in which new

material is related to relevant ideas in the existing cognitive
structure on a substantive, non-verbatim basis.
 Cognitive structures represent the residue of all learning
experiences; forgetting occurs because certain details get
integrated and lose their individual identity.
Advance Organizers

 A major instructional mechanism proposed by Ausubel is the use of

advance organizers.
 Ausubel emphasizes that advance organizers are different from
overviews and summaries which simply emphasize key ideas and are
presented at the same level of abstraction and generality as the rest of
the material. Organizers act as a subsuming bridge between new
learning material and existing related ideas.
Definition of Advance Organizers

 a tool or a mental learning aid that helps students “integrate new

information with their existing knowledge, leading to ‘meaningful
learning’ as opposed to rote memorization;”
 a means of preparing the learner's cognitive structure for the learning
experience about to take place;
 a device for activating the relevant schema or conceptual patterns so
that new information can be more readily “subsumed” into the learner's
existing cognitive structures.
Two Main Types of Advance

 First, an advance organizer can be an introduction to a new topic, with

the goals of giving students an overview, connecting new information to
what the students already know, and illustrating the organization of the
new concept or information to be processed and learned.
 Second, an advance organizer can be a task planner designed to
orient the learner to a task by providing organizational cues, like a
sequence of steps to complete the task or a list of components of the
task, or by showing what a product (i.e., the learning outcome) should
look like (e.g., what a well organized story or description looks like).
Examples of Advance Organizers

 diagrams that accompany products that require some assembly

(graphic advance organizers)
 visual “map” illustrating the components of a story and their sequence
may help elementary school students to read or listen to stories more
attentively (semantic/concept maps)
 For preschoolers, an organizer map can be as simple as a set of
photographs, presented top-down, representing the daily schedule at
home or at school
 Charts (first-grade); Written outlines, checklists, planners (adolescence)
Examples of Advance Organizers

 Images taken from Google Search