Friday, July 15, 2011

Cognitivism in Practice

Cognitivism in Practice

This week we concentrated on the main concepts associated with the Cognitive Learning Theory and how that theory can be linked to the Marzano’s strategies of ‘Summarizing and Note Taking’ and using ‘Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers’. 

Michael Orrey succinctly summarized the Cognitive Learning Theory as having four main components in the webcast, “Cognitive Learning Theories” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010).  To start, it is believed that individuals have a limited short-term memory and can only handle about 5-9 pieces of new information at a time.  It is expected that further involvement with this new information (rehearsal) will help to move the concepts into long-term memory.  The Elaboration Theory, another main element of Cognitivism, is the basis for that rehearsal.  Elaboration Theory simply states that the educator should provide as many connections to information for the learner as possible, such as visual images and/or events or episodes.   The Dual Coding hypothesis, the third component, fits nicely with Elaboration as it maintains individuals remember sights and smells better than text alone.  Finally, all three components support the fourth, which asserts long-term memories are stored in networks of information.  Simply stated, long term memories are ideas that are connected to other ideas. 

The main goal of educators is to move that initial 5-9 pieces of information from the short-term domain into long-term.  According to Cognitivist, the best way to do that is to provide connections between the organized information through a multitude of senses or experiences.  Both strategies explored this week are exceptional tools to use as a means of attaining that goal.  The first group of strategies, “Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers”, helps the students to establish the networks and connections for the new information coming their way.  “Cues are explicit reminders or hints about what students are about to experience.  Questions trigger students’ memories and help them to access prior knowledge.   Advance organizers are structures that teachers provide to students before a learning activity to help them classify and make sense of the content they’ll encounter, particularly new content that is not well organized in its original format” (Pitler et al, 2007).  I would also extend the use of the advanced organizer to include covering the Dual Coding hypothesis as it provides the students an opportunity to see the connections between ideas in an organized manner.   The text, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction That Works, discussed several software tools that an educator could incorporate into their lessons to support these strategies, specifically Microsoft Word for organizers, spreadsheet software to create rubrics, and Kidspiration and Inspiration, as well as PowerPoint (2007). 

In terms of ‘Summarizing and Note Taking’, Pitler et al describes these strategies as a tool to help students “focus on their ability to synthesize information and distill it into a concise new form” (2007).  The students are responsible for discerning what information is important and reproducing that information in their own words.  This is another strategy that helps the students to compartmentalize or network information for long term memory.  Along with Advance Organizers, many of the tools described by Pitler et al for summarizing and note taking are formatted to offer a visual representation of those networks.  Many of the tools mentioned in the first strategy are used for this purpose as well.  However, in addition, this chapter includes the possibility of blogs and wikis to support collaborative efforts. 

Clearly, these strategies synchronize well with the components put forth by the Cognitivists.  Both tools provide a space, many times a visual organizer, to organize ideas into a network of connections all the while asking the students to process the information or rehearse.  Using these strategies helps to take the new information and transfer it to a longer lasting memory. 

Laureate Education, Inc. (2010). Cognitive Learning Theory.  Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., Kuhn, M., Malenoski, K. (2007). Using Technology With
Classroom Instruction That Works. Denver, CO: ASCD


  1. This is a great post! The way you described cognitive learning theories was wonderful and I think it even helped me to understand it a little better!

    I truly agree that the visual representations of summarizing and note taking can be very beneficial to students and will help the information to be organized and networked in a way that will allow the information enter into long term memory. Although my students in kindergarten do not summarize or take notes by themselves, I will often model this as a part of whole group and putting the information in a summarized way that is organized will help the students to understand. Furthermore, the technology tools that were suggested can be very useful in the classroom for students and teachers to use for summarizing and note taking.

    I agree with your point about how questioning can help students to access prior knowledge and how advance organizers will help student to organize and make sense of information. The visual component is so helpful for students to understand the connections.

    I enjoyed reading your post!

    Nicole deMoll

  2. As you stated in your posting, it is important that we remember to elaborate in our teaching and give our students the opportunities to visualize and smell the content. We so often just have the students reference the text rather than the hands on experiments. Our students are more likely to absorb the lesson if they are able to relate the information to their personal lives.