Formal Recognition for Informal Learning

BDG0100 Developing Background

DESCRIPTION: Teachers who earn the Developing Background Micro-Credential are able to connect students’ prior knowledge with new material to build understanding.

EARNING THE MICRO-CREDENTIAL: To earn the Developing Background Micro-Credential, teachers demonstrate various lesson introduction methods to activate pre-existing student knowledge and positively impact student learning. Earners write three lesson introductions using a different background knowledge activator for each, explain how each chosen method promotes student learning, and compose a reflection on the effectiveness of their strategies. The earner video-records the planned lessons to demonstrate an ability to activate student background knowledge without detracting from the stated learning target.

RESEARCH BASE: Marzano (2004) reported a correlation coefficient of .66 (moderate) between a person’s background knowledge and learning success. Marzano (2001) also reported that activating prior knowledge yielded gains of 16 to 39 percentile points in standardized achievement tests.

BACKGROUND: Consider these resources to better understand the topic.

Neuman, Susan B., Kaefer, Tanya, & Pinkham, Ashley. Building background knowledge. http://www.readingrockets.org/article/building-background-knowledge

Mizerny, Cheryl. (2017) Background knowledge: 12 ways to set the stage. https://www.middleweb.com/34094/background-knowledge-12-ways-to-set-the-stage/

Uher, Alan E. (2019) If You Build It, They Will Learn. Issues in Lutheran Education.

MICRO-CREDENTIAL CRITERIA: The developing background micro-credential earner can do the following:

  1. Articulate the value of activating student prior background knowledge in order to achieve daily and long-term learning targets.
  2. Assess depth of student prior background knowledge on a given topic, concept, or learning target.
  3. Implement whole-class activities that will activate student pre-existing knowledge.
  4. Smoothly connect prior knowledge to new information as the lesson or unit unfolds.


Create Three Lesson Plans

Include the following:

  1. The lesson targets or objectives.
  2. Three different techniques to activate student background knowledge you will use during the lesson introductions.
  3. Explain the connections of the chosen techniques to lesson understanding.
  4. Explain how student responses will be used to assess the depth of student pre-existing knowledge, and how those might guide further instruction.

Submit a Lesson Video

Keep in mind the following:

  1. Teach and video-record the planned lessons with special emphasis on the techniques to activate student background knowledge.
  2. Obtain permission from parents or guardians for students to be video-recorded.
  3. Show the techniques in practice and the resulting student participation.
  4. Edit the video clips so their total length does not exceed 15 minutes.

Submit a Written Reflection

After completing the recorded lesson, prepare a written reflection on the lesson (maximum 400 words) that explains:

  1. The positive impact of the selected technique for developing background chosen for each lesson
  2. An assessment of the depth of students’ pre-existing knowledge
  3. The change(s) that can be made to improve the use of techniques that effectively activate student pre-existing knowledge without detracting from learning targets



Dean, Ceri B., Hubbell, Elizabeth Ross, Pitler, Howard, & Stone, Bj. (2012) Classroom instruction that works: Research-based strategies for increasing student achievement. Alexandria VA. ASCD http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/classroom-instruction-that-works.aspx

Himmele, Pérsida & Himmele, William. (2017) Total participation techniques: Making every student an active learner. Alexandria VA. ASCD http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Total-Participation-Techniques-Making-Every-Student-an-Active-Learner-2nd-Edition.aspx

Lent, ReLeah Cosset. (2012) Overcoming textbook fatigue: 21st century tools to revitalize teaching and learning. Alexandria VA. ASCD https://www.amazon.com/Overcoming-Textbook-Fatigue-Revitalize-Teaching/dp/1416614729

Marzano, Robert J. (2004) Building background knowledge for academic achievement: Research on what works in schools. Alexandria VA. ASCD http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/104017.aspx

Schmoker, Mike. (2011) Focus: Elevating the essentials to radically improve student learning. Alexandria VA. ASCD http://www.ascd.org/Publications/Books/Overview/Focus-Elevating-the-Essentials-to-Radically-Improve-Student-Learning-2nd-Edition.aspx


Alber, Rebecca. (2011) Are you tapping into prior knowledge often enough in your classroom? Activating prior knowledge of students is key to learning. Edutopia https://www.edutopia.org/blog/prior-knowledge-tapping-into-often-classroom-rebecca-alber


Reading for Mastery: Prior Knowledge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kfVV68MylU

Building Background: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FZlkwrKrxA

Building Social Studies Background Knowledge for English Language Learners: