Using Advance Organizers To Promote Active Learning

Program Standard 1

1. Expectations – The teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

1.3 Element – Engaging Students in Learning

1.3 Example of Proficient – The lesson has a clearly defined structure around which the activities are organized. Pacing of the lesson is generally appropriate.

When learning new subject matter it is easy for students to become overwhelmed and confused by the material. One efficient way of helping students understand the lesson is to begin with an advance organizer. This technique provides “introductory material presented ahead of the learning task and at a higher level of abstraction and inclusiveness than the learning task itself “(Joyce, Weil, & Calhoun, 2015, p. 204). Framing instruction this way allows students to not only understand the eventual outcomes of their learning but also connect the information to previously learned material. Four main types of advance organizers help student increase their learning: expository, narrative, skimming, and graphic (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler, & Stone, 2012, Chapter 4, para. 20). Expository advance organizers scaffold learning by creating a written or verbal framework for the information about to be presented. Narrative advance organizers spark students’ interest by framing the material in the format of a story or tale. Skimming advance organizers allow students to obtain a general overview of the material being presented so that they can begin to arrange the information in their mind. The most popular of the four is graphic advance organizers which allow students to see a visual representation of the content being taught (Dean et al., 2012, Chapter 4, para. 21-9). While this teaching strategy is framed around explicit instruction it is anything but passive.

Teachers who employ this tactic effectively in their classrooms actually enable students to become active learners who are aware of their own metacognitive processes. When used competently educators can encourage students to become life-long learners capable of employing the best inquiry practices. Joyce, Weil, and Calhoun (2015) asserted, “Critical thinking and cognitive reorganization can be explained to the learners, who receive direct instruction in orderly thinking and in the notion of knowledge hierarchies. Ultimately, they can apply these techniques independently to new learning” (p. 210). This kind of instruction imbues students with the tools necessary to fully understand the learning process and become familiar with their own needs. This awareness becomes even more prominent when teachers use advance organizers in meaningful ways. Educators should try to utilize all the different varieties of them for the benefit of their students. This mixture will do two things for students. First it will allow students to be exposed to information in an array of distinct approaches which will improve information retention. The second thing that it will do for students is to allow them to explore their own unique learning style by being exposed to different types. It is important for students to be engaged in their learning and advance organizers can provide students with the efficacy to take control of their education.

Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom Instruction That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd ed.). Denver, CO: McRel [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from
Joyce, B.R., Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2015) Models of Teaching (9th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from

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