Psychology of Learning PSY 331
October 12, 2009
Cognitive learning theories emerged in the mid-1900s and were a dramatic departure from the behaviorist learning theories so popular at the time. The advent of the computer also contributed to the emergence of cognitive theories of learning because computers provided the first means to "metaphorically conceptualize human cognition" (Bates, 1999). Cognitive learning theories are based on the assumption that the student is an active learner, that the student actively processes information.
These theories emphasize internal processing of information and material to which a student is exposed. Processing include receiving information, processing it and storing it for subsequent recall.
The three names most often associated with cognitive learning theories are Bruner, Ausubel and Gagne. These recognized authorities emphasized different aspects of cognitive learning. Bruner emphasized categorization and developing a general concept from examples. Ausubel emphasized reception of information and the need to link that to prior learning. Ausubel gave us the advanced organizer. Gagne looked at the steps or events in learning; he viewed learning as a series of steps.
This essay also provides an outline of the key elements in cognitive learning theory.
Cognitive Learning Theory
Cognitive learning theories are concerned with the processes that go on inside the brain as a person learns, i.e., the internal processing of information (Bates, 1999; Cooper, 2005). These theories are based on the perspectives that students actively process information and that learning occurs when students organize that information, store it "and then find relationships between information, linking new to old knowledge, schema, and scripts" (NSW HSC Online, n.d.).
The major premise in the cognitive school is that "humans take in information from their environment through their senses and then process the information mentally" (Epsychlopedia, 2000). Mental processing involves the acts of organizing the information, manipulating it to gain greater understanding, storing the new information in the memory and then relating this new information to information that is already stored in the memory (Epsychlopedia, 2000).
Cooper (2005) explained: "Contemporary research regarding cognitive learning theories has focused on information procession, memory, metacognition, theories of transfer, computer simulations, artificial intelligence, mathematical learning models."
These theories were a departure from the behaviorist model, the movement from behaviorism to cognitivism was called the "cognitive revolution" (Bates, 1999). The advent of the computer also contributed to this movement because computers "provided a means to metaphorically conceptualize human cognition" (Bates, 1999). As Bates (1999) explains this turnaround in language, "stimulus became inputs; response became outputs, and what occurred in between was information processing."
There are three theorists most commonly associated with cognitive learning theories: Jerome Bruner, David Ausubel and Robert Gagne (NSW HSC Online, n.d.). Cognitive learning theories are diverse and each of these theorists emphasized different aspects, however, they were all recognized as authorities in their fields (Cooper, 2005; NSW HSC Online, n.d.).
Bruner promoted discovery learning, which complemented Piaget's stages of cognitive development (NSW HSC Online, n.d.). He believed teaching and learning needed to include "concrete, pictorial then symbolic activities" (NSW HSC Online, n.d.). This, he said, would lead to more effective learning experiences (NSW HSC Online, n.d.). Bruner's work also focused on categorization and concept formation (Cooper, 2005). Bruner's hands-on approach is along the lines of the constructivist approach to learning (NSW HSC Online, n.d.).
Discovery learning is about leading the...