The construction and reconstruction of meanings by learners requires that they actively seek to integrate new knowledge with knowledge already in their cognitive structure (Novak, 2001). Only the learner can choose to learn in a meaningful manner, resulting in an obstacle to knowledge retention. Learners who choose to learn by rote will not modify their existing knowledge structures, regardless of the efforts of learning resources or instructors. Thus a precondition for meaningful learning is that learners must choose to learn, at least to some degree (Novak, 2001).
One example that effectively aids meaningful learning includes concept mapping. Concept mapping has been used to effectively aid meaningful learning with resulting modifications of student’s knowledge structures (Novak, 2001). According to Novak (2001), Raven’s Progressive Matrices test of ability that compared concept mapping groups with traditional groups of learners who did not utilize concept mapping, demonstrated reasonable evidence to conclude that students in the Concept Mapping group were not only learning better, but were also building metacognitive skills that further fostered the continuing improvement in achievement (p.9). It is additionally interesting to note that student ability as measured had no significant effect on problems solving scores, thereby indicating that the Concept Mapping method was effective for all ability groups (Novak, 2001).
How does meaningful learning relate to learning transfer?Perspectives about the transfer of learning vary between requiring rigorous subject matter for disciplining and strengthening the mind to transferring only to the extent that two situations have identical elements (Ormrod, 2012). Learning occurring at one time can facilitate learning at another time, if in the process, the individual learns how to learn (Ormrod, 2012). According to Y.K. Ip (2003), learning opportunities will be wasted if an individual has no theoretical basis or prior concepts with which to make sense of their experience, or to devise action plans (http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg/success/sl22.htm). Learners should be involved in setting up their own action plans, and in carrying out activities, while being aware of what is going on. To achieve meaningful learning, learners need to define problems and troubleshoot solutions, tolerate ambiguity, and consider alternatives while being open to new ideas. To transfer and retain knowledge, learners should see issues from different perspectives, value evidence; analyze the evidence, and produce and generate solutions. From there, learners can synthesize knowledge from a variety of sources, be reflective, self-assess, and recognize that knowledge is ever-changing (http://www.cdtl.nus.edu.sg/success/sl22.htm).
Mayer, R. E. (2002). Rote versus meaningful learning. Theory into Practice, 41, 226–232
Novak, J. D. (2001). Meaningful learning: The essential factor for conceptual change in limited or inappropriate propositional hierarchies (LIPHs) leading to empowerment of learners. Teoria da Aprendizagem Significativa, 23.
Ormrod, J. E. (2012). Human learning (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.