Essay, Pages 4 (882 words)
Over the past century, psychologists and researchers have sought to explain, through various learning theories, how people learn, store information, and put into practice those skills and knowledge when required. For the purpose of this writing, the theory of cognitivism will be explored. Cognitivism is the study in psychology that focuses on mental processes, including how people perceive, think, remember, learn, solve problems, and direct their attention to one stimulus rather than another (Cognitivism n.d.). Essentially, cognitivism does not require an outward exhibition of learning but focuses more on the internal processes and connections that take place during learning.
Three cognitive theories, cognitive information processing, meaningful learning, and schema theory and situated cognition theory, will be defined, examined based on how learning occurs, their use in instruction and compared with each other.
According to the cognitive information processing (CIP) view, the human learner is conceived to be a processor of information, in much the same way a computer is (McLeod 2008).
Acquiring and processing knowledge is a mental process, through which the learner stores, orders, organizes, transforms, retrieves, recovers, and evaluates knowledge (Bélanger 2011). In information processing, memory plays a central role. Information is first registered in short term memory and then processed, transferred, and encoded into long term memory (LTM). It is important to note that once information is coded in long-term memory it remains there until ready for retrieval.
Cognitive Information Processing can be used in instruction to help the learner take information from short-term and sensory memory through to long term memory.
According to Schunk (1996), the learner is an active seeker and processor of information, however, in instruction, the instructor has to play an active role in helping students focus their attention and select important information as well as activate prior knowledge which facilitates encoding. In addition, effective strategies must be used to transfer information into long-term memory. Strategies such as chunking, rehearsal, mnemonics, and serial positioning are effective.
According to David Ausubel’s meaningful learning theory, new information is meaningful when it relates to previous knowledge (Driscoll, 2005). The most crucial element in meaningful learning is how new information is integrated into the old knowledge structure. Meaningful learning can be achieved when new information is an example of a previously learned concept (Derivative subsumption), it enriches a higher-level concept (Correlative subsumption), where the learner knows examples of a concept, but learns the concept only when taught (Superordinate) and when new information is presented as an analogy (Combinatorial learning).
Schema theory on the other hand, according to Stein and Trabasso (1982), is prior knowledge or mental models composed of generic knowledge, experiences gained through individuals, groups or culture which can be intentional or not. Once schemas are formed they are thought to be stable for a long time. When new information is presented, schemata can be modified. Modification by simply adding new information to the existing schema is called Accretion. When the new information cannot be accommodated and a decision has to be made either to reject the new information or replace the old semata, it is termed Tuning and when the new information cannot be accommodated then a new schema is created, this is termed Restructuring (Driscoll, 2005).
Meaningful learning theory can be effective in instruction, however, the learner has to have an existing cognitive structure in order to build on. Instructors will have to use strategies to uncover that which students already know. Instructors can use Advanced organizers which are used to activate prior knowledge, for example, through concept mapping. Comparative organizers integrate new ideas with similar concepts in cognitive structure, as well as increase discriminability between new and existing ideas which are essentially different but confusingly similar. Expository organizers provide new knowledge that students will need to understand the upcoming information. Instructors may ask questions, give think-aloud activities, use cues through students’ responses, errors, and questions to determine what students’ current schemata might be and how they are organizing information.
Situated cognition studies human learning that takes place when the learner is doing something in both the real and virtual world, and therefore learning occurs in a situated activity that has social, cultural, and physical contexts. (Ataizi 2012) This theory supports the idea that learning takes place when an individual is doing something ‘ learning in progress’. The acquisition of knowledge cannot be separated from the context in which this knowledge is collected. Lave and Wenger (1990) suggest that situated learning occurs in dynamic communities which involves teachers, students, experts in business, and the local community where knowledge is shared in an authentic context. While Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989), emphasize cognitive apprenticeship where students are able to develop and use cognitive tools in authentic domain both outside and inside the school and advance through collaborative social interaction and the social construction of knowledge. Internship programs are prime examples of cognitive apprenticeship where students are placed in the real world of work, paired with the experts in the field where they gain knowledge from this authentic domain. Other examples include professional clubs or associations where people with common interests collaborate, innovate, and share ideas, frequently. Learning in this situation can be intentional or unintentional. The learner, having acquired and mastered the knowledge, skills, or abilities, will eventually become experts and pass on knowledge to new learners.