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This paper selectively reviews research on the relationship between topic interest and prior knowledge, and discusses the optimal association between these variables. The paper points out that interest has a facilitating impact on learning, and at least part of this effect must be ascribed to prior knowledge. While the interest-knowledge association may account for about 20 percent of the variance, 80 percent of the variance in the effects of interest may then be unaccounted for by prior knowledge, leaving a considerable portion of independent variance with which interest can affect learning. Research suggests that interest contributes to learning in the following ways: it seems to invoke deeper types of comprehension processes, leads to greater use of imagery, and may arouse a more personal and extensive network of relevant associations than are invoked by prior knowledge. Analysis of a model of interest-prior knowledge relationships suggests that categories of high interest and low knowledge, and low interest and high knowledge, are likely to be transitory. Suggestions are made to divide topic interest into specific and domain interests. The advantages of educational research on interest or curiosity are discussed. (Contains approximately 55 references.) (JDD)

Descriptors: Association (Psychology), Curiosity, Higher Education, Interests, Knowledge Level, Learning, Models, Research Needs

Autor: Tobias, Sigmund


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