Prior knowledge activation as a function of learner expertise

Posted Thu, 13/11/2008 - 09:46 by swe

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type of project: 
project start: 
1 Oct 2005
project end: 
1 Oct 2009

A large number of studies has shown that prior knowledge activation facilitates subsequent information processing and recall. Two prior knowledge activation strategies can be distinguished: a bottom-up strategy and a top-down strategy.

  • In a bottom-up strategy prior knowledge is activated through mobilization of relevant concepts or problem solutions.
  • In a top-down strategy prior knowledge is activated through taking a specific perspective in approaching a learning task.

Research shows that a bottom-up strategy predominantly leads to an extension of (limited) knowledge while a top-down strategy predominantly leads to a refinement of existing knowledge.

It is hypothesized that a bottom-up strategy could best be used for low-expertise learners because it enables them to expand their knowledge, a top-down strategy however, could best be used for high-expertise learners because it allows them to refine their existing knowledge. This hypothesis is investigated using guidelines from cognitive load theory that indicate how both strategies should be implemented in order to make optimal use of a learner's working memory capacity depending on their level of expertise.

contact name: 
Sandra Wetzels
contact email:
Collaboration partners/project team: 

Sandra Wetzels, PhD candidate
Dr. Liesbeth Kester, daily supervisor (co-promotor)
Prof. dr. Jeroen van Merriënboer, supervisor (promotor)