Advance Organizer

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  • An 'advance organizer is a cognitive instructional strategy used to promote the learning and retention of new information
  • “An advance organizer is information that is presented prior to learning and that can be used by the learner to organize and interpret new incoming information (Mayer, 2003).”, cited by Advance organizers
  • “These organizers are introduced in advance of learning itself, and are also presented at a higher level of abstraction, generality, and inclusiveness; and since the substantive content of a given organizer or series of organizers is selected on the basis of its suitability for explaining, integrating, and interrelating the material they precede, this strategy simultaneously satisfies the substantive as well as the programming criteria for enhancing the organization strength of cognitive structure." (Ausubel, 1963:81)” cited by Subsumption Theory (D. Ausubel), retrieved 19:35, 2 October 2006 (MEST).
  • “An advance organizer is not an overview, but rather a presentation of information (either verbal or visual) that are "umbrellas" for the new material to be learned.” Advance Organizers, retrieved 19:35, 2 October 2006 (MEST).

The avance organizing principle is compatible with many modern instructional design models like Merril's first principles of instruction.

The framework and the instructional design model

  • “According to Ausubel, learning is based upon the kinds of superordinate, representational, and combinatorial processes that occur during the reception of information. A primary process in learning is subsumption in which new material is related to relevant ideas in the existing cognitive structure on a substantive, non-verbatim basis” Subsumption Theory (D. Ausubel), retrieved 19:35, 2 October 2006 (MEST).
  • “Ausubel suggests that advance organizers might foster meaningful learning by prompting the student regarding pre-existing superordinate concepts that are already in the student's cognitive structure, and by otherwise providing a context of general concepts into which the student can incorporate progressively differentiated details. Ausubel claims that by presenting a global representation of the knowledge to be learned, advance organizers might foster "integrative reconciliation" of the subdomains of knowledge - the ability to understand interconnections among the basic concepts in the domain.” (Ausubel's Advance Organizers, retrieved 19:35, 2 October 2006 (MEST))

Advance organizers are used in good "transmissive" teaching, e.g. direct instruction. Such teaching is different from simple rote learning, since learners are encouraged to relate new knowledge to old knowledge (what they already know).

According to Joyce et al. (2000), the advance organizer model has three phases of activity:

Phase I (includes presentation of the advance organizer)
  • Clarify the aimes of the lesson
  • Presentation of the advance organizer
  • Prompting awareness of relevant knowledge
Phase II (includes making links to/from the organizer)
  • Presentation of the learning task or learning material
  • Make organization and logical order of learning material explicit
Phase III (strengthening of the cognitive organization)
  • Integrative reconciliation and active reception learning (e.g. the teacher can ask learners to make summaries, to point our differences, to relate new examples with the organizer).
  • Elicit critical approach to subject matter (have students think about contraditions or implicit inferences in the learning material or previous knowledge)

The simple principles behind advance organizers are that:

  1. Most general ideas should be presented first in an organized way (not just a summary) and then progressively differentiated.
  2. Following instructional materials should integrate new concepts with previously presented information and with an overall organization.

Therefore, advance organizers present a higher level of abstraction. They are not just simple overviews, illustrating examples etc. ! But they share with such techniques the idea, that they must be integrated with other teaching/learning activities.

“Advance organizers provide the necessary scaffolding for students to either learn new and unfamiliar material (an expository organizer which provides the basic concept at the highest level of generalization) or to integrate new ideas into relatively familiar ideas (a comparative organizer which compares and contrasts old and new ideas). Ausubel contends that these organizing ideas, which may be single concepts or statements of relationship, are themselves important content and should be taught because they serve to organize everything that follows. Advance organizers are based on major concepts, generalizations, principles, and laws of academic disciplines.” (The Advance Organizer, retrieved 19:35, 2 October 2006 (MEST)).


  • Novak and Gowan's hierarchical cognitive maps.
  • K-W-L group instructional strategy (Ogle)


  • concept maps or other kinds of concept drawings
  • Text and talk passages



  • Ausubel, D. P. (1960). The use of advance organizers in the learning and retention of meaningful verbal material. Journal of Educational Psychology, 51, 267-272.
  • Ausubel, D. (1978). In defense of advance organizers: A reply to the critics. Review of Educational Research, 48, 251-257.
  • Joyce, B., Weil, M., Calhoun, E. : (2000). Models of teaching, 6th edition, Allyn & Bacon, 2000. ISBN 0205389279
  • Joyce, B., & Weil, M., & Calhoun, E. (2003). Models of teaching (7th ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
  • Ogle, D. S. (1986). K-W-L group instructional strategy. In A. S. Palincsar, D. S. Ogle, B. F. Jones, & E. G. Carr (Eds.), Teaching reading as thinking (Teleconference Resource Guide, pp. 11-17). Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
  • Mayer, R. (2003) Learning and Instruction. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
  • Stone, C. L. (1983). A meta-analysis of advanced organizer studies. Journal of Experimental Education, 51(7), 194-199.