Meaningful learning

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The concept or theory of meaningful learning is that learned information is completely understood and can now be used to make connections with other previously known knowledge, aiding in further understanding.[1] Meaningful learning is often contrasted with rote learning, a method in which information is memorized sometimes without elements of understanding or relation to other objects or situations.[1] A real-world example of a concept the learner has learned is an instance of meaningful learning. Utilization of meaningful learning may trigger further learning, as relation of a concept to a real-world situation may be encouraging to the learner. It may encourage the learner to understand the information presented and will assist with active learning techniques to aid their understanding.[2] Although it takes longer than rote memorization, information is typically retained for a longer period of time.[2]

Meaningful learning can incorporate many different techniques, such as concept mapping and hands-on tasks. Some techniques may be more helpful than others, depending on the learner[2].

Spread of Activation[edit]

If meaningful learning is occurring, then the learner is fully engaged, and the brain can then organize the information based on what it relates to; this creates the associations that help us learn more and understand better by making connections[1]. This also means that these facts will be remembered together, instead of individually. Remembering one of the facts (or activation) will prime you to remember the others. This has been termed spread of activation[1]. Learners who are able to use this method of learning, as opposed to rote learning, are able to solve problems easier due to their capacity to apply their knowledge[1].The Internet has been a major factor in meaningful learning. Web 2.0 technologies, such as Wikipedia, blogs, and YouTube, have made learning easier and more accessible for students (Hamdan et al. 2015). Students are able to develop their interests with free and easy access to these online tools, and therefore are able to learn the material meaningfully. Interest development is one of the goals of meaningful learning, as students who are interested generally learn more effectively (Heddy et al. 2006).

Within the cognitive theory of learning, based on the theory of human information processing, the 3 core processes of learning are: how knowledge is developed; how new knowledge is integrated into an existing cognitive system; and how knowledge becomes automatic.

Ausubel (1967:10) focused on meaningful learning, as "a clearly articulated and precisely differentiated conscious experience that emerges when potentially meaningful signs, symbols, concepts, or propositions are related to and incorporated within a given individual's cognitive structure" (Takač 2008, p. 26).


  1. ^ a b c d e Allrich, Rod. "Meaningful Learning". Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  2. ^ a b c "Rote Learning vs. Meaningful Learning | Oxford Learning". Oxford Learning. 2017-03-23. Retrieved 2017-12-17.


  • Ausubel, D.P. (2000), The acquisition and retention of knowledge: a cognitive view, Kluwer Academic Publishers, ISBN 9780792365051CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Takač, V.P. (2008), Vocabulary learning strategies and foreign language acquisition, Multilingual Matters, ISBN 9781847690388CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Heddy, Benjamin; Sinatra, Gale; Seli, Helena; Taasoobshirazi, Gita; Mukhopadhyay, Ananya (2016), "Making learning meaningful: facilitating interest development and transfer in at-risk college students", Educational Psychology, 37 (5): 1–18, doi:10.1080/01443410.2016.1150420
  • Novak, Joseph (2002), "Meaningful Learning: The Essential Factor for Conceptual Change in Limited or Inappropriate Propositional Hierarchies Leading to Empowerment of Learners", Science Education, 86 (4): 548–571, CiteSeerX, doi:10.1002/sce.10032
  • Hamdan, A; Din, R; Manaf, Abdul; Salleh, Mat; Kamsin, I; Ismail, N (2015), "Exploring The Relationship Between Frequency Use of Web 2.0 and Meaningful Learning Attributes", Journal of Technical Education and Training, 7 (1): 50–66