Activating Prior Knowledge

This is the third and final “Teaching Tip” to make your lectures dynamic and help your students remember and apply the content.

Learning is faster when new material relates to something we already know. Subject matter experts do this with ease, but students can struggle. Here are three activities to help students access relevant prior knowledge and identify related concepts to help them learn the new material.

  1. Quiz on a topic before (e.g., Blackboard/ExamSoft) and during (e.g., Turning Point//hand raises) a lecture. Doing so not only activates prior, relevant knowledge but also helps students retrieve stored information to use while learning new material.
  2. Explicitly link earlier and current material. Links that seem obvious to faculty may be non-existent to our students. Drawing attention to the links will aid students’ learning.
  3. Prior to presenting a topic, pair students to discuss (2-3 minutes) what each person knows or thinks they know about that topic. Remind them to think about previous courses, previous lectures, readings, and personal experiences. This activity enhances retrieval, is important for learning, and sets a foundation for the current content.