Ausubel's Meaningful Reception Theory is concerned with how students learn large amounts of meaningful material from verbal/textual presentations in a school setting. Ausubel proposed that learning is based upon the kinds of superordinate, representational, and combinatorial processes that occur during the reception of information. A primary process in learning is subsumption in which new material is related to relevant ideas in the existing cognitive structure on a non-verbatim basis. Meaningful learning results when new information is acquired by linking the new information in the learner's own cognitive structure.
A major instructional mechanism proposed by Ausubel is the use of advance organizers. Ausubel emphasizes that advance organizers are different from overviews and summaries which simply emphasize key ideas and are presented at the same level of abstraction and generality as the rest to the material. Organizers help to link new learning material with existing related ideas.
Ausubel indicates that his theory applies only to reception (expository) learning in school settings. He distinguishes reception learning from rote and discovery learning. Rote learning does not involve subsumption and discovery learning requires the learner to discover information through problem solving.
Ausubel believed that children have a natural tendency to organize information into a meaningful whole. Children should first learn a general concept and then move toward specifics.
Principles of Ausubel's Meaningful Reception Learning Theory within a classroom setting include: