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Cognitivism in Practice (Re-Post)

                         Cognitivism in Practice


   The Cognitivist theory deals with how a person learns, or more specifically, how the brain stores and retains information. Recent studies have shown that the brain takes chunks of information and moves them into working memory, and eventually into long term memory. The chunks of information that reach long term memory are connected with other chunks of information, and can be pulled backed into working memory as needed. In fact, “All incoming information is organized and processed in the working memory by interaction with knowledge in long-term memory (Novak & Canas, 2006)”. The way a person learns and how the information is presented, heavily contributes to how these chunks of information enter the portion of the brain that controls long term memory. Many of today’s students are visual and auditory learners. Advanced organizers, summarizing and note taking, virtual field trips, and concept mapping are some tools that help them learn information.

     Advance organizers are a great way to organize information as the students move through a lesson or unit. These organizers can include pictures and symbols, vocabulary, and figures that show how the pieces of information on the organizer are linked and related. We often call these thinking maps. There are many different thinking maps that can be used as advanced organizers. One of the key pieces to creating an advanced organizer is to have the information presented linked back to an “essential question (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M., 2012, p. 95)”. This allows the students to understand why the information is important, from what point of view is the information being presented, and where did the information come from? I often use Mimio software and SmartBook software to create advanced organizers for my students. Many times they are only skeletons, and they students have to fill in all of the necessary information. There are other times when I do fill in some of the information, especially with difficult concepts, to help guide students through the organizer. I do this often with my collaborative class.

   According to Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M., “summarizing and note taking focuses on enhancing students’ ability to synthesize information and distill it into a concise new form (p.147)”. There are many technologies available that can do so. One that I have used quite frequently is Wordle. This technology allows students to type in words or phrases, and creates a digital collage of these words and terms. Students like using this software because it makes each Wordle unique, regardless of whether or not some of them use the same information. Teachers can also quickly glance at a Wordle, and get a feel on whether or not the students’ have mastered a concept.  

    Virtual field trips are a powerful tool because it allows students to go where they physically cannot, and it creates “a rich experience (Laureate, 2011)” for the learner that can create episodes of learning. These field trips are usually free and easy to access, which removes two of the major barriers for many students and educators in today’s educational system. It also gives students a visual representation of the information being presented, which is a very powerful tool in the learning process. These field trips can be used as culminating activities, or as an opening activity that can be used to draw information and experiences from throughout the unit.

    Concept mapping is another tool that gives students a visual representation of information. They are tools that help organize information, and show links and relationships to different concepts. These maps usually highlight the most important information and concepts in a unit, which in itself is a summarizing mechanism for students. Concept maps also help students and teachers understand the learning objectives for units, and spotlight important vocabulary in the unit or chapter. Today, technology allows to summarizing in different ways. Blogs, wikis, Google Docs, and other programs allow people to summarize information, but are much more interactive. These programs not only support the cognitive theory, but also the constructivist and social constructivist theories of learning.





Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Spotlight on technology: Virtual field trips. .

Novak, J. D., & Canas, A. J. (2006-01 Rev 01-2008). The theory underlying concept maps and  

          how to construct them, Technical Report IHMC Cmap Tools. Retrieved from  

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E. R., & Kuhn, M. (2012). Using technology with classroom instruction that  

           works (2nd  ed.). Alexandria, VA: ASCD.




About dericow11

Educator, life-long learner....

6 responses to “Cognitivism in Practice (Re-Post)

  1. woodiedr

    Wow! You listed a lot of different cognitive tools that teachers can use to help students receive, organize, and recall information. I agree with your thoughts on advance organizers. While I do utilize essential questions when introducing a unit, I do not use advance organizers in my classroom enough. Can you explain the Mimio software and SmartBook software tool you use a little more in depth? Is this a program that your school has purchased or is this free software? I think that advance organizers can be very helpful to students when beginning a new or challenging unit of material.

    I also was intrigued by your mention of the Wordle program, so I had to go and look it up. I had never seen this before and I think it looks like an engaging instructional tool. I searched through a gallery and saw some really neat ones. Do you think that this shows full mastery of a topic? Or do you use this as formative assessment and then go back and reteach? I definitely agree that majority of students today are auditory and visual learners. This, like all of the tools you described in your post, would definitely help students make connections to the material and covert the information into long-term memory.

  2. dericow11


    Thanks for the comment. The Mimio and SmartBoard technologies have to be purchased. I teach at a Title I school, so a few years back my principal allocated some of those funds to purchase these items. At first we used SmartBoard a lot, then Mimio came along and was much cheaper, so she decided to go in that direction. I am not sure about the Mimio software, but I know that you can download the Smart Notebook software on a 30 day trial. However, since my school purchased it, I have a network key that I can give you that will give you full rights, and permanent access to the software. Just email me if you need it. I like using the SmartBoard software because it has more games and interactive templates that I can use in my daily instruction. Although, advanced organizers are just as effective when completed on paper. I just use the software to make templates, or show completed examples for my students.
    As far as using Wordle, I was first introduced to this website two years ago. I think it is a neat tool to gauge what my students have learned from the unit, but I do not think it fully measures if the students truly understand the material. Therefore, I have never used it as a formative assessment with my students. I usually assign wordles as an enrichment activity or extension. I often give my students a list of vocabulary words at the beginning of each unit. My students can simply take these words, and put them in a wordle. The finished product looks great, but it does not mean my students know the meaning of these words, or why they are important to lesson(s). However, once I know my students have mastered the material, it is a fun and unique way to display their knowledge. In fact, I try to look for short phrases as a sign of mastery, rather than stand-alone vocabulary words.

  3. Beard ⋅

    I agree that cognitivism and constuctivist/social constructivist theories all work hand in hand. It makes sense that if one is constructing something they are building neural pathways in their brain as they have to assess what they are doing and analyze next steps.

    I also use Wordle a lot in my classroom. For example, I pasted the text of the Preamble to the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence. Students see the weight the authors put on certain words. I am curious specifically how you use this in your classroom. What is your subject area and which grade level(s) do you teach?

  4. Barbara ⋅

    I love the way that you summarized congnitive learning theory. There are many ways that the cognitive learning theory can be used in education. The strategies that you listed and talked about are great. I love the wordel program. It is a great way to help students to summarize and gather information. It is also a great way to help students to determine what is important and what it inot.

  5. Amber VanKirk ⋅

    I agree with your synthesis of the cognitive theory and strategies, such as virtual field trips and concept maps. The great thing about all of these tools is how they work together to increase students’ understanding and interest. All can be used in different ways to achieve various levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy, such as analyze, synthesize, apply, and create (Orey, 2001). What are some ways that you use concept mapping or virtual field trips in your classroom?
    Amber VanKirk

  6. Amber VanKirk ⋅

    I agree with your synthesis of the cognitive theory and strategies, such as virtual field trips and concept maps. The great thing about all of these tools is how they work together to increase students’ understanding and interest. All can be used in different ways to achieve various levels on Bloom’s Taxonomy, such as analyze, synthesize, apply, and create (Orey, 2001). What are some ways that you use concept mapping or virtual field trips in your classroom?
    Amber VanKirk

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