One of the primary purposes of using Advance Organizers as an instructional strategy is to connect new learning to more general or abstract ideas of the discipline. (Dell’Olio & Donk, 2007, p. 388) When presented at the beginning of a unit or lesson it serves as a framework to which learners can add new bits of information as they learn.
Depending on the material to be presented, teachers must choose which type of advance organizer would be most effective. When students work through unfamiliar material, expository organizers are in order. If the content is more familiar to students then comparative organizers are best. Comparative organizers provide a structure that allows the learner to differentiate between familiar ideas and/or concepts. (p.395). Teachers may also determine whether they should use text-based or visual advanced organizers. This decision is most often based on the reading abilities of the students.
Along with providing a framework for new learning, Advance Organizers can also serve as a way to assess prior knowledge. When used in this way, they “bridge the gap between what the learner already knows and what he needs to know before he can successfully learn the task at hand.” (Dell’Olio & Donk, 2007, p. 393) Advance Organizers can also be an effective tool to use for end of unit/lesson review. By the end of the lesson the organizer is mostly completed in a structured and organized fashion – perfect for a pre assessment re-cap.
Most of my teaching experience has been in the primary grades and advance organizers lend themselves very well to this age group. They are effective in presenting young students a concrete way to organize new information so it is meaningful. It is at this age when learning habits begin to solidify. Gaining experience in making connections to higher level ideas and themes as well as placing new information into meaningful categories sets the stage for effective information processing that can positively impact student learning over the long term.
Dell’Olio, J. M., Donk, T. (2007). Models of Teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage