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Why is prior knowledge so important?

Learning is efficient when new content and competencies can be built upon existing ones. Therefore, a student’s prior knowledge is of utmost importance for learning. Particularly in the acquisition of mathematical knowledge, in the acquisition of written language or in the learning of a foreign language, individual knowledge can only be acquired successfully if the necessary prior knowledge has been developed to a sufficient degree.

Historical, biological, physical or other factual knowledge can also be stored much more effectively if the memory already contains well-structured contents to which the new knowledge can be linked. Since the content of school learning requires more and more prior knowledge over the years, this knowledge plays an increasingly important role and cannot be replaced by intelligence.

Students with less prior knowledge are less able to connect to essential points in learning than students with greater prior knowledge. Individual learning success remains minimal if the learning content is acquired in isolation and not linked to available prior knowledge.