Advanced Organizers by Annie Allen, Tama Exsted, Tiffany Miley and Tyler Pulkkinen




Ausubel believed that the information we store in our brains is organized into different concept categories. The larger concept categories, which he called anchors, help us organize all the other pieces of information we take in. If we can tie new information to the existing organizational structure, or anchors, then we will be better able to retain that new information. Basically, if we can link new information to what we already know, we have a better chance of remembering it. Ausubel proposed the use of advance organizers to bridge this gap. (AA/TM)

By definition, an advanced organizer is a tool used by an instructional designer to help the learner recall and transfer prior knowledge to the new information being presented. In theory, David Ausubel was one of the developers of advanced organizers and theorized that advanced organizers facilitated learning.

Basically, in layman’s terms, it is the use of a graphic or text based organizer to facilitate future learning. Advance organizers are typically either text based, such as a list or table, but they can also be graphical, like in a Venn diagram or a flowchart. This information would be presented before instruction as a way to provoke previously existing schema or to get the learner to start restructuring what they know into new schema. With the use of an advance organizer, new material will be rendered as more familiar and meaningful, as learners will have an organized structure in place to store new ideas, information, and concepts.-Ty

Why Use Advance Organizers?


-- According to David P. Ausubel, an instructor with the correct educational training can create advance organizers that are a vital instructional tool in a learner’s ability to retain new information. (TM)
Some have argued that the advance organizer tends to replace note taking and therefore should not be used on a frequent basis. However, this was never Ausubel's intention. They are only to be used as tools in a learner's education, not implemented to replace other valid instructional materials. (TM)
-- Advance organizers are also easy to develop and use within a wide variety of instructional settings. The fact that a book's index is an advance organizer is a key indication that they are accepted and used within a wide variety of settings. (TM)
-- Simply stated, learners need instruction to be clear, manageable, and applicable to one's growing web of knowledge. Advance organizers cover these topics, and are an important aid to a learner's retention, and application of knew information. (TM)
-- Research has shown that the use of advance organizers increases student achievement, but expository organizers have the greatest positive impact on achievement. (AA)


1. Expository (AA)

  • Specifically telling students what they are going to learn or explaining the instruction's general ideas in advance
  • Displaying/reviewing the lesson's objectives
  • Reviewing definitions that students will come across before a lesson

2. Narrative (AA)

  • Telling a story to prepare students for the instruction

3. Skimming (AA)

  • Having students review the textbook or literature before starting the instruction
  • SQ3R type activities

4. Graphic

  • A visual representation of how information fits together/is organized
  • Word Web
  • Sequence Chart
  • arranging a book's content in a sequential manner allows learners to apply the newly acquired knowledge to the next chapter (TM)
  • Individualized Graphic Organizers
  • Picture Webs

Example of a graphic organizer:

Advance organizers provide optimal anchorage for fresh ideas. In absence of the clear and stable concepts presented by advance organizers, many students may become easily confused and lost in the instruction.-Ty


Implementation must occur in a cohesive format to have a positive impact on student learning. The learner is taught organizational skills when using graphic organizers within the lesson. Implementation needs to occur after the learner has been introduced to the content of the lesson.

The instructional designer needs to understand three principles when implementing advance organizers in a lesson:

Consistent - Be consistent when using graphic organizers in the instructional design of a lesson.

Coherent - Be coherent when preparing a lesson, so the organizer is clear and precise.

Creative - Be creative when presenting the lesson to capture the attention of the learner.

It is important to note that Ausubel believed advance organizers worked best with students that had difficulty fitting new information into their existing knowledge base. Therefore, advance organizers will work best with students that struggle to organize new information. (AA/TM)

In addition, advance organizers tend to work best with information that is disorganized. Do not spend time re-organizing information that is already organized in a logical manner. (AA/TM)

Literal examples of advance organizers include charts, diagrams, concept maps, or oral presentations. Advance organizers are best employed before the start of a new unit, discussion, homework assignment, video, or similar activity. The steps to successfully employing an advance organizer are as follows. The instructor, before using an advance organizer, should outline the goal of the lesson. The advance organizer is then presented, which should put the new knowledge into context while tying into previous knowledge. Introduce the material by starting out with general ideas first, and then follow with more specific topics. Be sure throughout the lesson to keep bringing up the “big picture” that your advance organizer covered. This will assist students in retaining the new information and meaningful learning. Encourage the students to develop new ideas by introducing new points of view, asking questions, or having them engage their critical thinking skills with a writing assignment. The goal is to get the students to use the new information they have acquired. Be sure to always take time to clarify and address any questions the students may have.-Ty


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Created by: Annie Allen, Tama Exsted, Tiffany A. Miley and Tyler Pulkkinen