7. Pre-Training Principle

The Pre-Training Principle means that we need to pre-teach key concepts for better understanding.  What this means is that learners actually learn better and more deeply if they already know the names and characteristics of the subject.

Picture depicting three phases of learning, questioning, thinking, and light bulb turning on.

So, why is this important?  We again look at working memory, and the capacity of the brain to retain knowledge.  What we find is that when a complex subject is approached at a fast pace (such as in a college course) the brain cannot take everything in.  This is called “essential overload.”

Pre-Training then gives essential knowledge, and is given before the lesson starts, which makes it easier to process the new concepts of the lesson.

Microscope with parts labeled

Here is an example.  Students in biology will need to use a microscope in their first lesson to look at blood cells, while at the same time trying to figure out the parts of the microscope.  Students with prior knowledge of the parts of the microscope and how they work can use their cognitive resources to learning the blood cell lesson.  Students who do not have this prior knowledge will be taxed by learning the lesson and learning the microscope parts and how they work. These students need pre-training.

Pre-training, in this case, helps by providing essential knowledge prior to diving into the concepts of the lesson.  Knowing your learner is very important then to know when to apply pre-training. 

The results are very clear that those with pre-training will perform better than those learners who do not get pre-training.  Students “learn more deeply from a multimedia message when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts.”

Next week we look at the Modality Principle.  Have a great weekend!!

Mayer, R. (2014). The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning, Second Edition. New York City: Cambridge University Press.