Chapter 3 - Manuscript 1 CHAPTER 3 COGNITIVE LEARNING...

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Manuscript 9/28/03 1 CHAPTER 3 COGNITIVE LEARNING THEORY CHAPTER 3 Introduction In this chapter, you will learn about cognitive learning theories, and how cognitive learning principles may provide you with one more way to think about your teaching decisions. You will notice that we use the plural term “cognitive theories.” This is because there is no single cognitive theory, but rather a family of theories that all explain learning by describing the nature of knowledge, and the processes through which knowledge is acquired and used. When you have finished this chapter, you will be able to use cognitive-learning- theory concepts to analyze and make decisions about various classroom situations. As was the case with the previous chapter, the concepts presented in this chapter have been incorporated into a series of learning principles that will guide later discussions about instructional design and delivery. These principles are listed below. Cognitive Learning Principles Principle 3.1: Meaningful learning occurs when new knowledge is connected to existing knowledge. Principle 3.2: Effective instruction encourages learners to coordinate their various basic mental processes.
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Manuscript 9/28/03 2 Principle 3.3: The limitations of students’ working memory must be accounted for in instruction. Principle 3.4: Learning is an active, goal-directed process. Cognitive View of Learning The behavioral learning theories discussed in Chapter 2 are attempts to explain learning by focusing on observable environmental events in the form of stimuli and responses. In contrast, cognitive learning theories describe and explain learning in terms of internal mental events. As a result, the definition of learning, and the explanations for how learning occurs are different for cognitive theorists and behaviorists. Cognitive Definition of learning From a cognitive perspective, learning involves the transformation of information in the environment into knowledge that is stored in the mind of the learner. For our purposes, information is defined as patterns of energy present in the environment. Energy is any aspect of the environment that can produce a sensation, and is primarily in the form of light, sound, and pressure. A sensation is just a signal from the senses to the brain that occurs whenever a particular kind of energy is present in the environment. Knowledge is created when the information contained in sensations is represented in a meaningful manner in the mind of the learner. From a cognitive perspective, learning occurs when new knowledge is acquired, or existing knowledge is modified by experience. Cognitive learning theories explain how knowledge is acquired by learners. Cognitive-learning theory does not describe a single theory, but rather a family of theories with many branches. Information processing is one branch of cognitive-learning
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Manuscript 9/28/03 3 theory that has proven to be a very useful for thinking about how learners acquire knowledge in classrooms. The information-processing branch itself has many different
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