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An application of Novak’s theory to the design of a learning program in nutrition for children of the early primary levels Stanbury, Gladys M.


This study investigated an application of Novak's theory for the design of curriculum and instruction as outlined in his book, A Theory of Education (1977) The theory deals with the development of a curriculum based on a hierarchy of concepts following Ausubel's (1968) notion of cognitive subsumption. Ordering within this hierarchy begins with the most-general, most-inclusive concept and proceeds through a sequence to terminate with the most-specific, least-inclusive ideas. Suitable instructional strategies and devices can then presumably be selected to teach the curriculum. The particular problem addressed by this study was the application of Novak's theory to the design of an instructional program to teach two specific, nutritional concepts to a group of K/l children; the role of sugar in dental caries and in obesity. A review of the literature indicated the prevalence of these diseases, their relationship to the dietary habits of children, and the need to begin appropriate instruction in nutrition at an early age. Because the young subjects had limited reading skills, a logo-character, "Sugar Shy," was created and the children were taught how this logo could be used to identify low-sugar foods. Novak's theory necessitated awareness of the children's concepts relevant to sugar and its dietary effects prior to the planning of the curriculum. A cognitive assessment was made of each child before and after teaching the program. These assessments were based upon pictures drawn by the children and their comments about them. The ability of children to classify low-sugar foods was also assessed. Results of this study tended to show that Novak's model could be successfully applied to the development of an instructional program. The subjects' knowledge of relevant nutritional concepts, as determined by a post-assessment, increased by approximately 60% and their abilities to classify foods by 40%. It was argued that the theory should be applicable to any subject at any grade level. The outcomes also suggested a possible role for Novak's work in the pre-service and in-service education of teachers and administrators. Novak's approach was viewed as a potentially valuable bridge between educational theory and classroom practice.

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