The structure of prior knowledge

Jain, Pinky (2014) The structure of prior knowledge. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The phenomenon of prior knowledge is deep rooted in the rhetoric of education. There is much discourse within pedagogy about its value and pivotal role in the formulation of new learning. However teachers are not able to use prior knowledge effectively as they do not have a working sense of it, but are using it intuitively and colloquially. While researchers provide a multitude of definitions of prior knowledge, no one has examined its elemental structure in a way that provides a model for teachers to use and support learning. This deficit is surprising as prior knowledge is a universally accepted pedagogical notion. The aim of this thesis is to fill the deficit and establish a structure of prior knowledge.

The research was situated within Year 1 primary mathematics classrooms following eight teachers across five schools over one academic year. Using naturalistic research methodology, the data were gathered through audio recordings of the interactions between teachers and children during mathematics lessons. These recordings were analysed using grounded theory and content analysis.

The research explored and produced a partial model of prior knowledge emerging from the data which includes at least eight interconnected elements – abstraction, acculturation, cognition, context, individual motivation, metacognition, perception and social group. These can be seen as elements which can shape children’s memory – the central feature of the prior knowledge that they bring to each mathematical task. Children may manifest different degrees of these elements, and possibly of others which did not appear in these data, in different proportions and balances.

Such a prior knowledge model, even though it remains partial, gives a deeper understanding to a common but widely misunderstood term. The implications of knowing and understanding more and in more depth about the structure of prior knowledge are potentially far-reaching for children, schools, teachers and curriculum development.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Gates, P.
Keywords: prior knowledge; prior learning; primary schools; primary education; mathematics education; mathematics teachers; elementary school mathematics; primary school teachers
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 14553
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2014 15:41
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2016 14:33

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