In education, we are guided by a number of psychological principles which attempt to define how individuals learn. Although educators generally do not subscribe to only one learning theory, the principles gathered from a variety of resource define a teacher’s pedagogy and overall philosophy regarding student learning. It is these resources that guide educator’s instructional practices and approach to curriculum development. Last week I explored the relevance of behaviorism in modern education. This week I will delve into the theories of cognitive learning and how these principles correlate to instructional strategies utilized in today’s classrooms.
Cognitive learning theory was initially developed during the 1950’s as a direct response to the principles of behaviorism (Cherry, 201 2, p. 1). Where behaviorism asserts that learning is acquired through conditioned responses to stimuli that can be manipulated through positive or negative reinforcement, cognitivism, maintains that the human brain is similar to a computer processor. Information is obtained through a variety of mental processes such as thinking, memory, knowing, and problem-solving ("Cognitivism," 2012, p. 1). This information is then used to create mental schema or a conceptual framework to process and create meaning for the learner.
The concept of schema development and mental processing found within cognitive theory, lends itself to a number of instructional strategies and technology tools. Tools such as cueing and questioning are memory devices educators can utilize to trigger information, prior knowledge and memory progress (Pitler, et al, 2007). In order to facilitate cueing, one can utilize concept mapping or advance organizers. These cognitive tools allow learners to represent knowledge in a graphic manner. It is a tangible representative of the mental schema’s that is created within the brain, and allows students to generate ideas, to design a complex structure, to communicate complex ideas to aid learning by explicitly integrating new and old knowledge, to assess understanding or diagnose misunderstanding(Robertson et al, 2007). Presently, there are a number of technology resources that allow students create a multitude of concept maps. Microsoft Word has developed SmartArt inserts which provide users with a selection of concepts mapping tools. In addition, websites such as Cacoo and Grapholite, educators and learners can create virtual maps which are easily accessible during instructional sessions and presentations.
Another common cognitive tool similar to cueing and advances organizers relates to summarization, and note taking. Both of these tools require the learner to organize and synthesize information into a logical and systematic document (Pitler, et al, 2007). In terms of note taking, similar technology tools utilized in concept mapping can be applied. As stated these graphic organizers can be developed utilizing both virtual software and Microscoft Office software. Educators can also create PowerPoint presentations with key words and phrases removed, thus requiring students to fill in the blanks. This variation on note taking allows educators to differentiate for students who may require additional support or processing time. Summarization is the process of synthesizing key concepts and ideas into a short concise statement. Pitler, H., Hubbard, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K, (2007) recommends u sing rule based strategies, summary frames and reciprocal teaching strategies in order to facilitate summarization process. Through the use of tracking tools and auto summarization tools within Microsoft Word, users are able to implement and demonstrate rule based strategies.
Through the use of these tools, technology resources and other cognitive learning principles, educators can develop concrete and meaningful resources for their students. Learners are able to organize, recall and employ information with greater ease and proficiency.
Cherry, K. (2012). What Is cognitive psychology? Retrieved September 16, 2012, from http://psychology.about.com/od/cognitivepsychology/f/cogpsych.htm
Cognitivism. (2012). Retrieved September 16, 2012, from http://www.learning-theories.com/cognitivism.html
Pitler, H., Hubbard, E. R., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with
classroom instruction that work. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Robertson, B., Elliot, L., & Robinson, D. (2007). Cognitive tools. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging
perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved September 16, 2012, from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/