Learning Theory Paper
Curr 558/Foundations of Curriculum and Instruction
University of Phoenix
Dr. Ginger Lewis Jacobs
April 4, 2008
Cognitive Learning Theory Introduction
Cognitivism focuses on an unobservable change in mental knowledge. Cognitivism came about as a rejection of the behaviorist views. Psychologists believed that mental events, or cognitivism, could no longer be ignored. According to Blanton (2007), there are many general assumptions of cognitive learning theories such as some learning processes being unique to human beings and cognitive processes are the focus of the study. Another assumption of the theories is that objective, systematic observations of people’s behavior should be the focus of scientific inquiry; however inferences about unobservable mental processes can often be drawn from such behavior. Cognitive theorists believe that learners are actively involved in the learning process and learning involves the formation of mental associations that are not necessarily reflected in overt behavior changes. They also believe that knowledge is organized and learning is a process of relating new information to previously learned information. The cognitive learning theory also has general educational implications. Cognitive theorists believe that cognitive processes influence learning. They believe that as children grow, they become capable of increasingly more sophisticated thought. Another implication of this theory is that people organize things as they learn them and new information is most easily acquired when people associate it with things they have already learned. The most important educational implication of this theory is that people control their own learning (Blanton 2007). Cognitive Theorists and Contributions
In order to understand the cognitive learning theory, it is important to know the theorists associated with the theory and their contributions to it. There are many very influential cognitive theorists who have greatly contributed to the theory and its findings.
Edward Tolman was a prominent learning theorist during the heyday of behaviorism, yet his work had a distinctly cognitive flair. Tolman developed his mentalistic view of learning by using adaptive versions of behaviorist research. There are several central ideas of his theory including learning can occur without reinforcement, learning can occur without a change in behavior, and learning results in an organized body of information. The Gestalt psychologists of Germany, Marx Wertheimer, Wolfgang Kohler, and Kurt Koffka, emphasized the importance of organizational processes in perception, learning, and problem solving. They also believed that individuals were predisposed to organize information in particular ways. There are several basic ideas of the Gestalt Theory including perception is often different from reality, the organism structures and organizes experience, and problem solving involves restructuring and insight. Jean Piaget is the most widely recognized cognitive learning theorist. Piaget focused on mental events - logical reasoning processes and the structure of knowledge. He incorporates such diverse topics as language, logical reasoning, moral judgments, and conceptions of time, space, and number. The major components of Piaget's research include people are active processors of information, cognitive development results from the interactions that children have with their physical and social environments, and cognitive development occurs in distinct stages, with thought processes at each stage being qualitatively different from those at other stages.
The last of the most influential cognitive learning theorists is Lev Vygotsky. Vygotsky died at a young age, but he had several influential ideas in the field of cognitivism such as complex mental processes begin as social activities; as children develop, they gradually internalize these processes and can use them independently of those...