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Learning and Cognition

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  1. Learning and Cognition • Cognitive Information Processing • Schema Theory

  2. Behaviorists • Not much interested in how people “think” mentally • Primarily concerned with observable behavior, I.e., what happens before and after learning • In this sense, behavioral instruction (direct instruction, programmed learning, etc.) is mostly concerned with what the teacher does

  3. Cognitivists • Concerned with mental processes • How people acquire, process, and use information • Pay attention to what goes on at the very moment of learning, not just the results of learning

  4. Cognitive Theorists • Jerome Bruner • Spiral curriculum • revisit at different stages

  5. Cognitive Theorists • Jean Piaget • developmental stages • learning structured by • schemes (templates) • assimilation (adding on) • accommodation (changing schemes)

  6. Cognitive Theorists • Both Bruner and Piaget, as well as their successors, hold that: • children are different than adults • children’s thinking/learning develops • children’s learning development not necessarily equivalent to physical age or maturation: experiences and social interactions play vital roles

  7. Cognitive Theorists • Lev Vygotsky • learning first occurs on the inter-personal plane via interaction with others • such intra-personal processes as thinking, reflecting, reasoning and problem-solving occur through cooperation and interaction with others in some cultural-social framework • Zone of proximal development (ZPD) • boundary of student’s prior knowledge and that for which he or she is not yet developmentally ready but can be assisted by others to get there; the area between what a learner can do independently (mastery level) and what can be accomplished with assistance of a competent adult or peer (instructional level); scaffolding assists in getting from one place to the other

  8. Cognitive Information Processing • Computer model • compares basic biochemical workings of the brain with basic computer design • people, like computers, input information, code and store it for short and long-term retrieval, process and manipulate it internally, and produce outputs

  9. CIP Stages

  10. Sensory Memory • holds information very briefly (e.g., striking match in dark room) • separate sensory memory for each of the five senses

  11. Short-term or Working Memory • further processing carried out here to make information ready for long-term storage or a response • information is coded conceptually and takes on meaning • can handle only a limited amount of information (thought to be 7 bits or chunks, plus or minus 2) for a limited amount of time

  12. Short-term or Working Memory • working memory can be increased through creating larger bits (process of chunking) • as new chunks come into memory, they push out those previously occupying the available spaces • unrehearsed information will be lost from working memory in about 15-30 seconds

  13. From working memory to long-term memory • Rehearsal (repetition), e.g., remembering a phone number you just looked up • Encoding: fitting the information into fabric of what you already know • outlines, hierarchies, concept trees, mnemonics, self-questioning

  14. Long-term Memory • permanent storehouse/hard drive • unlimited capacity • though some “files” may seem to be “erased” (forgetfulness), information in long-term memory is never truly lost unless there is a physical/biological malady

  15. Long-term Memory • episodic memory (specific events) • semantic memory (general information); this is the memory that most concerns educators

  16. Long-term Memory • how information is represented and stored in semantic memory • network models of LTM (mental dictionary; interconnected hierarchies; problem is typicality: e.g. canary more easily recognized as a bird than penguin) • feature comparison models (concepts stored with sets of defining as well as characteristic features)

  17. Long-term Memory • propositional models of LTM (concepts stored as propositions, e.g. “a bird has wings”) • parallel distributed processing (PDP) models of LTM (interlinked frisbee metaphor; connections are the building blocks of memory)

  18. CIP • Selective attention • learners can select and process certain information while simultaneously ignoring other information • abililty to control attention varies with age, hyperactivity, intelligence, and learning disabilities • instructional strategy: get their attention!

  19. CIP • Automaticity • occurs when information and/or tasks are overlearned, become habitual, e.g. driving • desirable to develop some automatic decoding skills among learners, e.g., learning to read, basic arithmetic operations, etc.

  20. CIP • Pattern Recognition and Perception • Attention is necessary but not sufficient for learning • Information must also be analyzed and already familiar patterns or templates identified to give a basis for further information processing • Pattern recognition refers to the process where stimuli from the environment are recognized as exemplars of concepts already in memory

  21. CIP • Models of Pattern Recognition • Template matching (exact mental models already stored in memory) --not widely endorsed • Prototype Model (what is already stored is not an exact copy of a stimulus but a general prototype) • Feature Analysis (features only stored in memory)

  22. CIP • Whatever has been learned or experienced previously will have some impact on what is perceived in later situations • Stroop effect: knowing what you think is “right” interferes sometimes with processing something new; e.g., proofreading, we see what we think should be rather than what is

  23. Retrieval of Learned Information • Recall (with no cues) • Recognition (cues or pregenerated stimuli) • Encoding Specificity: whatever cues are used by a learner to facilitate encoding will also serve as the best retrieval cues

  24. Metacognition • self-awareness and self-regulation of thinking, e.g. • knowing what one doesn’t know, predicting one’s performance, planning and apportioning cognitive resources and time; checking and monitoring • students must have a base of prior knowledge • students must know when and why various self-regulatory strategies may be effectively employed

  25. Schema Theory: Ausubel • Ausubel's theory is concerned with how individuals learn large amounts of meaningful material from verbal/textual presentations in a school setting (in contrast to theories developed in the context of laboratory experiments). • He is concerned with meaningful reception of information rather than information processing per se. • According to Ausubel, learning is based upon the kinds of superordinate, representational, and combinatorial processes that occur during the reception of information.

  26. Schema Theory: Ausubel • A primary process in learning is subsumption in which new material is related to relevant ideas in the existing cognitive structure on a substantive, non-verbatim basis. • Cognitive structures represent the residue of all learning experiences; forgetting occurs because certain details get integrated and lose their individual identity.

  27. Schema Theory: Ausubel • A major instructional mechanism proposed by Ausubel is the use of advance organizers: • "These organizers are introduced in advance of learning itself, and are also presented at a higher level of abstraction, generality, and inclusiveness; and since the substantive content of a given organizer or series of organizers is selected on the basis of its suitability for explaining, integrating, and interrelating the material they precede, this strategy simultaneously satisfies the substantive as well as the programming criteria for enhancing the organization strength of cognitive structure." (1963 , p. 81).

  28. Schema Theory: Ausubel • Ausubel emphasizes that advance organizers are different from overviews and summaries. Organizers act as a subsuming bridge between new learning material and existing related ideas. • Ausubel clearly indicates that his theory applies only to reception (expository) learning in school settings. He distinguishes reception learning from rote and discovery learning; the former because it doesn't involve subsumption (i.e., meaningful materials) and the latter because the learner must discover information through problem solving.

  29. Schema Theory: Ausubel • Instructional Application: • 1. The most general ideas of a subject should be presented first and then progressively differentiated in terms of detail and specificity. • 2. Instructional materials should attempt to integrate new material with previously presented information through comparisons and cross-referencing of new and old ideas.

  30. Schema Theory • A schema is “a data structure for representing the generic concepts store in memory” (Rumelhart, 34). • Schemata are packets of knowledge and schema theory is a theory of how these packets are represented in particular ways.

  31. Discussion & Task • In groups of three: • Select a concept or theme or skill commonly taught in some context (elementary, jr high, high school; language, math, music, social studies, whatever) • Assume Suzy and Matt are having difficulties learning it • Analyze the situation from the standpoint of a schema theorist