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Online Guest Talk by Prof. Michael Schneider | Trier University

Prof. Schneider followed an invitation of ENB REASON and gave a talk on "Prior Knowledge and Learning: New Developments in a Longstanding Field of Research"


2020_michael schneider


Prior knowledge is among the strongest determinants of learning. – This Knowledge-is-Power hypothesis (KiP) is almost a dogma in the learning sciences. It is supported by studies from many decades and content domains reporting medium to strong correlations between learners’ amounts of knowledge before and after learning. However, recent findings indicate that things are not that simple. A large meta-analysis found that the relation between prior knowledge and knowledge gains is more volatile than the KiP implies. Theoretical accounts suggest that the quality of knowledge is more important than the quantity of knowledge. Researchers are struggling because knowledge is a theoretical construct, which cannot be directly observed, and a heterogeneous construct, which cannot be operationalized by a sum score. Recent studies tackle these problems through research syntheses investigating mediators and moderators of knowledge acquisition processes and through multivariate latent variable models of changes in knowledge structures over time. The presentation uses example studies from the speaker’s lab to explain these recent developments in research on prior knowledge and learning.


Michael Schneider is a professor for Educational Psychology at the University of Trier since 2011. After writing his doctoral dissertation at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, he worked as a postdoc in the teacher-training program at the ETH Zurich and the lab for developmental psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. His research interests include the acquisition and development of knowledge, mathematics and science learning, effective instruction, and research syntheses.

Professor Michael Schneider challenged our view on the role of prior knowledge for future learning. We'd like to say thank you for the fruitful exchance!