Cognitivism (philosophy of education)
Cognitivism, as a perspective in education, has a premise that humans generate knowledge and meaning through sequential development of an individual’s cognitive abilities, such as the mental processes of recognize, recall, analyze, reflect, apply, create, understand, and evaluate. The Cognitivists' (e.g. Piaget; Bruner,; Vygotsky) learning process is adoptive learning of techniques, procedures, organization, and structure to develop internal cognitive structure that strengthens synapses in the brain. The learner requires assistance to develop prior knowledge and integrate new knowledge. The purpose in education is to develop conceptual knowledge, techniques, procedures, and algorithmic problem solving using Verbal/Linguistic and Logical/Mathematical intelligences. The learner requires scaffolding to develop schema and adopt knowledge from both people and the environment. The educators' role is pedagogical in that the instructor must develop conceptual knowledge by managing the content of learning activities. This perspective relates to early stages of learning where the learner solves well defined problems through a series of stages.
Historical and theoretical roots
Jean Piaget’s  Cognitive Development Theory sequenced learning according to infancy [age 0-2: sensor motor], preschool [age 2-7: preoperational], childhood [age 7-11: concrete operational] and adolescence [age 11+: formal operational]. According to Piaget, the ability to learn a concept is related to a child’s stage of intellectual development. Through a series of stages, Piaget explains the ways in which characteristics are constructed that lead to specific types of thinking. This focus on scaffolded early learning and sequential development of mental processes defines the Cognitivists' learning theory.Through his study of the field of education, Piaget focused on assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation, one of two processes coined by Jean Piaget, describes how humans perceive and adapt to new information. It is the process of fitting new information into pre-existing cognitive schemas. Assimilation occurs when humans are faced with new or unfamiliar information and refer to previously learned information in order to make sense of it. Unlike assimilation, accommodation is the process of taking new information in one's environment and altering pre-existing schemas in order to fit in the new information. Through a series of stages, Piaget explains the ways in which characteristics are constructed that lead to specific types of thinking. To Piaget, assimilation is integrating external elements into structures of lives or environments, or those we could have through experience. It is through assimilation that accommodation is derived. Accommodation is imperative because it is how people will continue to interpret new concepts, schemas, frameworks, and more. Assimilation is different from accommodation by how it relates to the inner organism due to the environment. Piaget believes that the human brain has been programmed through evolution to bring equilibrium, which is what Piaget believes ultimately influences structures by the internal and external processes through assimilation and accommodation. Piaget's understanding is that these two functions cannot exist without the other. To assimilate an object into an existing mental schema, one first needs to take into account or accommodate to the particularities of this object to a certain extent. For instance, to recognize (assimilate) an apple as an apple, one must first focus (accommodate) on the contour of this object. To do this, one needs to roughly recognize the size of the object. Development increases the balance, or equilibration, between these two functions. When in balance with each other, assimilation and accommodation generate mental schemas of the operative intelligence. When one function dominates over the other, they generate representations which belong to figurative intelligence. Gestalt psychologists criticize behaviorists for being too dependent on overt behavior to explain learning. They propose looking at the patterns rather than isolated events. Gestalt views of learning have been incorporated into what have come to be labeled cognitive theories. Two key assumptions underlie this cognitive approach: that the memory system is an active organized processor of information and that prior knowledge plays an important role in learning. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to consider how human memory works to promote learning, and an understanding of short term memory and long term memory is important to educators influenced by cognitive theory. They view learning as an internal mental process (including insight, information processing, memory and perception) where the educator focuses on building intelligence and cognitive development. The individual learner is more important than the environment.Once memory theories like the Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley's working memory model were established as a theoretical framework in cognitive psychology, new cognitive frameworks of learning began to emerge during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Today, researchers are concentrating on topics like cognitive load and information processing theory. These theories of learning play a role in influencing instructional design. Cognitive theory is used to explain such topics as social role acquisition, intelligence and memory as related to age.
Lev Vygotsky, in his book Thought and Language, asserts that thought development in children is sequential and dependent upon language development. Children first connect groups of objects with facts forming complexes, then assign the complexes’ names, such that families of objects are formed, then families of objects continue to develop and grow until the child forms concepts. This theory of knowledge development is also known as schema formation. An important concept here is that Vygotsky’s work demonstrates why abstract concepts must be linked to prior knowledge that is gained sequentially. Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) demonstrates the need for the guidance and assistance of adults or more-skilled children. A child's unsystematic, disorganized, and spontaneous concepts are met with the more systematic, logical and rational concepts of the instructor during play. Vygotsky uses ZPD as a tool to explain the relationship between a child's learning and their cognitive development. Through the assistance of an instructor, the child is able to learn skills or aspects of a skill that go beyond the child’s actual maturational level. Vygotsky holds that language is fundamental to a child's cognitive growth. Children are able to communicate and to learn from others through dialogue; therefore, high quality verbal scaffolding aids children's cognitive development. This focus on scaffolded early learning and sequential development of mental processes defines the Cognitivists' learning theory.
Jerome Bruner’s work in cognitive psychology lead to a theory delineated in his books The Process of Education and Toward a Theory of Instruction Bruner believed that the goal of education is intellectual development. His theory has four components: 1) curiosity and uncertainty, 2) structure of knowledge, 3) sequencing, and 4) motivation. He recommends that instructors create learning environments that allow students to interact with their environment, connect to prior knowledge, and express the experience either verbally or mathematically. In his book, The Relevance of Education, Bruner applies his theory to infant development. This focus on scaffolded early learning and sequential development of mental processes defines the Cognitivists' learning theory. In accordance with this understanding of learning, Bruner proposed the spiral curriculum, a teaching approach in which each subject or skill area is revisited at intervals, at a more sophisticated level each time. Bruner's spiral curriculum draws heavily from evolution to explain how to learn better and thus it drew criticism from conservatives. First there is basic knowledge of a subject, then more sophistication is added, reinforcing the same principles that were first discussed. This system is used in China. In the United States classes are split by grade—life sciences in 9th grade, chemistry in 10th, physics in 11th. The spiral teaches life sciences, chem, physics all in one year, then two subjects, then one, then all three again to understand how they mold together. Bruner also believes learning should be spurred by interest in the material rather than tests or punishment, we learn best when find the knowledge we're obtaining appealing.
American Universities such as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University of Southern California and others, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, began offering majors and degrees dedicated to educational neuroscience or neuroeducation. Such studies seek to link an understanding of brain processes with classroom instruction and experiences. Neuroeducation seeks to analyze the biological changes that take place in the brain as new information is processed. It looks at what environmental, emotional and social situations are best in order for new information to be retained and stored in the brain via the linking of neurons, rather than allowing the dendrites to be reabsorbed and the information lost. The 1990s were designated "The Decade of the Brain," and advances took place in neuroscience at an especially rapid pace. The three dominant methods for measuring brain activities are: event-related potential, functional magnetic resonance imaging and magnetoencephalography (MEG). The integration and application to education of what we know about the brain was strengthened in 2000 when the American Federation of Teachers stated: "It is vital that we identify what science tells us about how people learn in order to improve the education curriculum." What is exciting about this new field in education is that modern brain imaging techniques now make it possible, in some sense, to watch the brain as it learns, and the question then arises: can the results of neuro-scientific studies of brains as they are learning usefully inform practice in this area? Although the field of neuroscience is young, it is expected that with new technologies and ways of observing learning, the paradigms of what students need and how students learn best will be further refined with actual scientific evidence. In particular, students who may have learning disabilities will be taught with strategies that are more informed. Neuroscience shows that the brain can be modeled not with a central processor where ‘'intelligence'’ lies, but in having perhaps 70 functional areas. Mental activity requires several areas to work together. What appear as different types of intelligence result from different combinations of well-developed functional areas. Learning is a process by which neurons join by developing the synapses between them.
In his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner differentiates intelligence into specific (primarily sensory) "modalities." Rather than seeing intelligence as dominated by a single general ability. Gardner articulated multiple criteria for a behavior to be considered an intelligence.  These were that the intelligences showed: potential for brain isolation by brain damage, place in evolutionary history, presence of core operations, susceptibility to encoding (symbolic expression), a distinct developmental progression, the existence of savants, prodigies and other exceptional people, and support from experimental psychology and psychometric findings. Gardner chose eight abilities that he held to meet these criteria: musical–rhythmic, visual–spatial, verbal–linguistic, logical–mathematical, bodily–kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. He later suggested that existential and moral intelligence may also be worthy of inclusion. Although the distinction between intelligences has been set out in great detail, Gardner opposes the idea of labeling learners to a specific intelligence. Each individual possesses a unique blend of all the intelligences. Gardner firmly maintains that MI should "empower learners", not restrict them to one modality of learning.
Benjamin Bloom's classification of learning objectives divides educational objectives into three "domains": cognitive, affective, and psychomotor (sometimes loosely described as "knowing/head", "feeling/heart" and "doing/hands" respectively). Within the domains, learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels. A goal of Bloom's taxonomy is to motivate educators to focus on all three domains, creating a more holistic form of education.
- Concept learning
- Constructivism (learning theory)
- Creative Pedagogy
- Critical pedagogy
- Educational philosophy
- Educational psychology
- Education theory
- Contemporary Educational Psychology — a Wikibook about educational psychology
- Instructional design
- Learning theory (education)
- Humberto Maturana (1928–)
- Assimilation Theory (David Ausubel)
- Attribution Theory (Fritz Heider)
- Cognitive load (John Sweller)
- Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (Richard Mayer)
- Elaboration Theory (Charles Reigeluth)
- Social cognitive theory (Albert Bandura)
- Theory of cognitive development (Jean Piaget)
- Zone of proximal development (Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky)
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