In this chapter Driscoll primarily discusses concepts put forward by American psychologist David Ausubel. One of the principals amongst these is “meaningful learning,” which Ausubel contrasts with rote learning. The main processes that make up meaningful learning are derivative and correlative subsumption (wherein “new, incoming ideas are subsumed under more general and inclusive anchoring ideas already in memory” [p. 118]), superordinate and combinatorial learning (which is learning “that is not subordinate in nature” [p. 121]), and assimilation theory (which states that the “’result of the interaction that takes place between the new material to be learned and the existing cognitive structure is an assimilation of old and new meanings to form a more highly differentiated cognitive structure’” [p. 123]).
The other principal concept this chapter explores is Ausubel’s “schema theory,” which is concerned with how schemata, “packets of knowledge… are represented and how that representation facilitates the use of the knowledge in particular ways” (p. 129). These schema then can (and should, Ausubel argues) be used to activate prior knowledge, by way of the likes of “advance organizers,” which are “relevant and inclusive introductory materials, provided in advance of the learning materials, that serve to ‘bridge the gap between what the learner already knows and what he needs to know before he can meaningfully learn the task at hand’” (p. 138).
In Chapter 5 Driscoll examines the theory of “situated cognition,” in which “cognition is assumed to be social and situated activity…; one learns a subject matter by doing what experts in that subject matter do” (p. 156). The theory further maintains that “’every human thought is adapted to the environment, that is, situated, because what people perceive, how they conceive of their activity, and what they physically do develop together’ (Clancey, 1997, pp. 1-2; italics in original). Moreover, what people perceive, think, and do develops in a fundamentally social context” (p. 157).