Description of Cognitivism

Description of Cognitivism

Cognitivism is a learning theory that focuses on the processes involved in learning rather than on the observed behavior. As opposed to Behaviorists, Cognitivists do not require an outward exhibition of learning, but focus more on the internal processes and connections that take place during learning. Cognitivism contends that “the black box” of the mind should be opened and understood. The learner is viewed as an information processor.  Knowledge can be seen as schema or symbolic mental constructions and learning is defined as change in a learner’s schemata. Some important classroom principles from cognitive psychology include meaningful learning, organization, and elaboration.

Cognitivism as a reaction against Behaviorism

Cognitivist theory developed as a reaction to Behaviorism. Cognitivists objected to behaviorists because they felt that behaviorists thought learning was simply a reaction to a stimulus and ignored the idea that thinking plays an important role. One of the most famous criticisms addressed to Behaviorism was Chomsky’s argument that language could not be acquired purely through conditioning, and must be at least partly explained by the existence of some inner abilities. Behaviorism for example falls short to explain how children can learn an infinite number of utterance that they have never heard of.

The role of the learner

The learners according to cognitivists are active participants in the learning process. They use various strategies to process and construct their personal understanding of the content to which they are exposed. Students are not considered anymore as recipients that teachers fill with knowledge, but as active participants in the learning.

Notable cognitivists

A few of the cognitivists who have contributed to developing the cognitive theory are the following:

  • Piaget
  • Bloom
  • Bruner
  • Ausubel

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3 Responses

  1. Prasko says:

    Critics of Cognitivism Learning Theory
    1. This theory is often criticized as being closer to psychology than to learning theory, so the application in the learning process is not easy.
    2. This theory is also considered difficult to be practiced purely because we are impossible in understanding the cognitive structures that exist in the mind of every student, especially sorting out the cognitive structures into discrete parts or clear boundaries.
    3. In advanced step, it is often not easy to understand and identify the knowledge that already exists in the minds of students. Oftentimes, the knowledge and experience of the students are too complex to be identified thoroughly, especially by only one or two pre-test.

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