Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cognitivism in Practice

Cognitive orientation to learning is based on "the act or process of learning," (Smith, 1999).  The belief is that students learn best when they are actively engaged in high interest activities.  This is nothing new to any teacher.  "Learning results from inferences, expectations and making connections. . .prior knowledge is important," (Smith 1999). 

By using cues, questions, and advance organizers, teachers are able to enhance the student's ability to retrieve, use and organize information, (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007).  These types of strategies provide for multiple modalities.  The more channels that the information is presented in, the more connections can be made in the brain, providing easier retrieval.  Teachers can use technology to enhance the digital learners interest and learning, and allow them to use higher-level thinking.
Note taking and summarizing enhance "students' abilityto synthesize informations and distill it into a concise new form," (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007).  This too requires students to actively become a part of their learning to do this.  They are required to filter through information to determine what is the most important, rather than the most interesting, then put it into their own words.

The cognitive theory believes that students need to manipulate information to make it their own thinking.  The strategies that were presented this week require just that.  Students do not just sit and absorb the information.  In each strategy they have to take the information, manipulate it, visualize it, summarize it, connect to it and store it.  The more they are actively involved, the better the recall is. 


Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD

Smith, M.K. (1999) "The cognitive orientation of learning', the encyclopedia of informational education,, last update: September 03, 1999.


  1. Laura,

    I find that note taking and summarizing are two skills that many of my students struggle with. They do not know what information is important to include and what should be left out. I have tried using several different organizers to help with their note taking skills and have found them to be successful.

    For summarizing, have you tried using AutoSummarize in Microsoft Word? It sounds like a great way to help students determine which information is important when they are taking a piece of writing and making it their own. Many times, I have students that will summarize a piece of information and leave out the most important parts. I want to try using this tool and was curious to see if anyone else has tried it already.


  2. Laura,

    One of the most difficult tasks for the students at my highly at risk school is to take the information and organize it to make meaningful connections. Often times, they have so many other things on their mind such as home situations and other factors. When we use cognitive learning theories to mold our instruction, we provide all students with a way to deduce important information. I often provide graphic organizers to summarize information and take appropriate notes.


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  4. Laura,

    I teach seniors in high school and some of my students still seem to have a difficult time organizing information in class. I have found that using graphic organizers has been very helpful to my students. Also, using AutoSummarize like Kristen suggested also has helped many of my students learn what information is most important. These strategies seem to help my students obsorb information.

    Jonathan Garrett

  5. Jonathan,

    I am interested in using AutoSummarize with my students and it is great to hear that you have found it to be helpful for your students. My students also struggle with picking out the most important information.


  6. Kristen- I tried using the auto summarize on one of the papers that I wrote for this class and it will highlight key points and phrase! It was really neat! You should try it on your papers to see how it works.

    Jonathan- I use graphic organizers a lot in my class. I teach elementary school so this is a common occurance. The students really do find them helpful.