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Advance Organizers and Good Lesson Plans

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Currently I am writing a short book based on my very popular iae-pedia page Good Math Lesson Plans ( I started to think about the role of "Advance Organizers" in a good lesson. The idea of an advance organizer is attributed to David Ausubel. See Quoting from this Wikipedia document:

An advance organizer is information presented by an instructor that helps the student organize new incoming information. This is achieved by directing attention to what is important in the coming material, highlighting relationships, and providing a reminder about relevant prior knowledge.

Advance organizers are helpful in the way that they help the process of learning when difficult and complex materials are introduced. This is satisfied through two conditions:

1. The student must process and understand the information presented in the organizer—this increases the effectiveness of the organizer itself.

2. The organizer must indicate the relations among the basic concepts and terms that will be used.

Some Web browsing led me to the book Models of Teaching (Joyce & Weil, 1996). I knew Bruce Joyce when he was teaching at the University of Oregon, and I have previously read some of his publications. I have always considered them to be quite insightful. Quoting from the book cited above:

Most teaching episodes have both content and process objectives. The content objectives include the information, concepts, theories, ways of thinking, values, and other substance that the students can be expected to learn from the experience that results. The process objectives are the ways of learning—the conduct of the social and intellectual tasks that increase the power to learn. In the case of a model of teaching, the process objectives are those that enable the students to engage effectively in the tasks presented when the model is being used. A good lesson plan considers both.

One of the key ideas covered in the book is that a typical teacher makes use of very few lesson plan models or designs. The authors have observed that such teachers will adjust the material to be taught so it fits the usual lesson plan and teaching model that the teacher uses. The authors suggest that increasing the repertoire of teaching models a teacher is comfortable in using will lead to better learning on the part of students.

Teachers Tend to Teach the Way They were Taught

I learned math through a "stand and deliver" style of math teaching. In high school and college this model of math teaching still dominates. In my career, as I transitioned from being a math teacher to being a computer science teacher to being a teacher of teachers, I gradually learned models that fit the various teaching situations. For example, in my math teaching I had never seen small group discussions, but I eventually learned to make routine use of this in my teaching of teachers. Similarly, I had never seen the use of math manipulatives. Now I am a strong supporter of math manipulatives as an aid to teaching and learning math. I encountered project-based learning (PBL) only once in my own math education, yet I eventually came to make PBL a routine component of my teacher education courses.

Here is a list (arranged in alphabetical order) of some of the types of lesson plan models that Joyce and others have identified as particularly useful:

What You Can Do

Take a look at the models of teaching that you routinely use. Do you have a repertoire of a half-dozen or more models? If not, think about adding one new model to your repertoire. Select one that you and/or your colleagues are confident is an effective model for use with the students and subject matter that you teach. If you use a teaching model that you find particularly effective but that few of you colleagues use, give yourself the task of helping your colleagues add this teaching model to their repertoire. 

Suggested Readings from IAE and Other Publications

You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button.

Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries.

Here are some examples of publications that might interest you.

A study skill: Reading for learning and understanding. See

New free book about good math lesson plans. See

Personalizing educational content and delivery. See

Purposes of education. See


Joyce, B., & Weil, M. (1996). Models of teaching (5th ed.). Retrieved 2/1/2012 from: OF TEACHING.pdf. (The eighth edition can be purchased from Allyn & Bacon).



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See My most recent project is the creation of a non-profit organization named Information Age Education (IAE). Its goal is to help improve teaching and learning by people of all ages, throughout the world. Current IAE activities include:

• IAE-pedia— is one of IAE's home pages.
• Web—
• This is one of IAE's home pages.IAE Newsletter
• IAE Blog
• Books. Authors include Bob Albrecht—; Dave Moursund—; and Bob Sylwester & Dave Moursund—


  • David Moursund Tuesday, 11 June 2013

    Translating theory into practice

    Written by davem, February 01, 2012.

    It never ceases to amaze me how complex good teaching is. There is a huge and steadily growing collection of theory and well-established methodologies that—when well implemented—improve student learning.

    I remember when I first encountered David Ausubel's work on advance organizers. I had been teaching for a long time, but it had not occurred to me that it would help my students if I spent more effort on laying the groundwork (via advance organizers) for the content I was presenting in a particular lesson.

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