The future depends on what we do in the present. - Mahatma Gandhi

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cognitive Learning Theory

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According to Dr. Orey, the Cognitive Learning Theory is a three phase learning process in which a person receives information that gets processed and stored into short term memory, and then eventually makes into long term memory. In order to get information from short term memory to long term memory when it actually becomes retainable, a person needs to be able to connect each idea to every other idea they are learning. As stated by Dr. Orey, this method of connecting with what you are learning is called elaboration. (Laureate, 2007a)

In the text, Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, and Malenoski , present great ideas to help students achieve cognitive learning with the use of technology. One instructional strategy they recommend is cues, questions, and advance organizers. Advanced organizers are technology tools that “enhance the student's ability to retrieve, use, and organize information about a topic." (Pitler et al., 2007, p.73) An example of an advance organizer is a tool called concept mapping. Basically concept mapping is "a tool that is given to students at the beginning of an assignment to help students "make sense of the content when the information is not well organized in its original format." (Pitler et al., 2007, p.73) It is similar to an outline, except you are using graphic bubbles to design it instead of text format, comparable to a flow chart. Students can use images to insert ideas or concepts and link it to another bubble holding an idea. In essence, concept mapping helps the student connect their thoughts using graphics. Therefore, concept mapping is a great tool to use to initiate cognitive learning. The authors also provide other technology tools such as word processing, spreadsheet applications, multimedia and brainstorming software to help students organize their thoughts and promote cognitive learning.

Other cognitive tools introduced by the authors in this week’s readings were Virtual Field Trips, and Note Taking. A Virtual Field Trip is a web based tool that "provides a student the opportunity to go where they physically cannot." (Laureate, 2007b) It is a method in which students can generate an experience within the classroom, called an ”episode or episodic memory,” (Laureate Inc., 2007b) enabling students “to tie constructivist activities to that experience, giving them a base to make rich connections for information retrieval." (Laureate, 2007b) Furthermore, Note Taking is another strategy that students can use to "organize information in order to process” (Pitler et al., 2007, p.120) it more efficiently and effectively, so that it can be stored into long term memory.

In future assignments, I plan on using concept mapping when introducing a lesson. This way, my students will have an idea ahead of time exactly what they will be learning and why, because the mapping will help them answer the lesson’s essential question. The mapping will allow students the ability to focus their learning and organize the information in a way that will make it easier for them to understand, and at the same time, as a teacher, I will be able to determine by the progress made on the concept map who needs additional help with the lesson, and who does not.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2007a). Cognitive Learning Theories. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2007b). Spotlight on Technology – Virtual Field Trips. [Educational video]. Baltimore: Author.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD


  1. Be sure to look at the section on combination notes in the note taking chapter. This is a tool that I think all teachers should use.

  2. Marcella,

    Though I agree with you and the authors that concept mapping tools can be used as basis for initial instruction and determining a baseline of student knowledge, I feel that they may have additional applications. I would use a concept map as an assessment tool to see what students were able to bring into their web over knowledge after exposure to multiple learning opportunities. Periodic concept maps or editing the initial map could show how the students' knowledge has brought in new connections and had become more sophisticated. It could also be used well after the unit was complete to see the retention level. Judging by the dictates of cognitivist learning theories, one would assume that the connections established while learning would aide in long-term recall. Has anyone implemented concept maps in this manner or at all?

    Thanks for your post!


  3. Marcella,

    I also plan on using concept mapping at the beginning of my study units. It is a great way to give students a little heads up on what might be covered in the next week. Otherwise, the mystery of what is coming up next might be difficult for students.

    But I think Nancy makes some good points as well. A concept map could be used on a final assessment. You could give students choices perhaps. They could write an essay response, or create a concept map as an alternative. I plan to use the concept map as a reviewing tools to help students prepare for essay questions on unit assessments. Some visual learners might be able to call back on what their concept map looked like, and trigger the recall of what they have learned.



  4. Marcella,

    We have a curriculum coordinator at our school district. Anytime she observed a teacher she would always advocate the use of a concept map or graphic organizer. I never realized why she pushed so hard until I read and viewed the resources this week. By concept mapping we really are making more important visual connections. I learned the more connections that are made the better off the students.

    Nick Renninger

  5. Marcella,

    First of all, I think it is awesome that one of the authors of our learning resource commented on your blog-very cool! Second, your ideas about the connections between the technology tools mentioned and cognitive learning theory are well thought out and well written. I also believe that mapping tools can be used in initial content introduction. However, I agree with others that it should not be limited to this use only. It can be used for assessment, presentation, or other applications that the teacher sees fit.

  6. I think I will use concept mapping for note taking from now on. I teach middle school Tech. and although it is an elective class, I am serious about what I do and I'm thorough - so note taking in my class is sometimes painstaking.

    I used for the concept-map and I like it so much, I think I'll try it out this week.

  7. A perfect example of you never know who is watching your blog! How exciting for you to reach the author. Congrats

    Concept maps are certainly great tools. I set one up for my project and it took a great deal of time. I can understand how students will be able to learn better by creating their own and making their own connections.

  8. Hi Marcella -- This is Lisa Cyr-Lajoie. I graduated with you at VBDSS high school in 1982. As you may know, this year is our 30th and they have scheduled our class reunion in early August. Charles Oulette and Joyce Cyr from the Reunion commitee have been trying to reach you. They sent me an email asking if I know of your whereabouts, and I told them that you were an IT instructor in Lewiston. I would love to hear from you -- or the class has a FB page available for everyone to make contact with others in the class and respond to class reunion updates. Please let us know how you are and if you can attend this year. They are anxious to hear from you! A friend always -- Lisa Cyr