Priming refers to eliciting recall of prior knowledge that is associated with soon-to-be presented new information. The priming effect occurs when activating recall of prior knowledge, related to the new information, results in greater learning than not having had prior knowledge activated.

Priming may be of specific knowledge in the content domain associated with the soon-to-be presented information, general knowledge that may have analogies drawn to the soon-to-be presented information, or both.

Learners may hold prior knowledge in the content domain related to the new information. Recalling these schemas from long term memory prepares them for modification to account for the new information.

Learners may also hold prior knowledge in different content domains that may be suitable for comparison, or as analogies, to the new information. Recalling these schemas prepares them for being used to make comparisons to the new information.

The relationship between the primed information and the new information should be made explicit to learners.


At the beginning of instructional presentations, elicit recognition and recall of relevant schemas within the content domain.

Also, prime schemas that lie outside of the content domain but which are intended to be used for the purpose of making comparisons.

Instructional Design: 

Prior to presenting new information, prime learners’ schemas that are to be associated with the new information.

Priming of learners may be achieved through asking them questions, engaging in dialogue, showing images or presenting summary reviews. The objective is to ensure that each learner engages with his or her own knowledge base prior to receiving the new information.

Example 1: Recall from Last Topic

Discussion with students starting with "In the last topic we discussed milking of cows. What were some of the important considerations to do before milking...."

Instructor guides discussion...until presenting the statement "this topic considers the milking of yaks. Apart from living at high altitudes, there are many similiarities between cows and yaks..."


Example 2: Images of High Mountain and People with Frostbite

Instructor presents an image of high mountains and asks "would anyone like to go here for a holiday?", then guides a discussion of how wonderful it would be.

Instructor then presents an image of fingers suffering from frostbite and another person apparently in a coma along with the statement..."you need to prepare yourselves properly and know how to respond to frostbite and altitude sickness."


Example 3: Mind Map Production

Learners are asked to generate a simple mind map for todays it the anatomy of the hand, the hazards of handling acid, or the establishment of Bah'ai faith.

Instructor then briefly gathers some comments from students and acknowledges how they relate to the topic.


Example 4: Very short story, such as The Hare and the Tortoise

A chapter in the text book provides a brief account of the story of the 'hare and the tortoise'.

This is used as a rationale for being well prepared and taking small regular deliberate steps in preparing and managing the running of a business.


Example 5: Quick Quiz

A series of 5 short quiz questions regarding earthquakes.

Then, indicating that todays class is about plate tectonics.