Meaningful learning

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Meaningful learning is opposed to rote learning and refers to a learning method where the new knowledge to acquire is related with previous knowledge (Ausubel 2000).

In meaningful learning, the learners are "integrating" new information into old information (Novak 2002). Concept mapping has been found to be a useful technique for this (Novak 2002). It allows learners to connect their existing knowledge to the subject being learned.

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).


  • Ausubel, D.P. (2000), The acquisition and retention of knowledge: a cognitive view, Kluwer Academic Publishers, ISBN 9780792365051 
  • Takač, V.P. (2008), Vocabulary learning strategies and foreign language acquisition, Multilingual Matters, ISBN 9781847690388 
  • 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: 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", Sci Ed, 86: 548–571, 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