This web site was created for use by students in PSY 501.  The material on these pages is not intended for use by individuals not enrolled in that course.


Cognitive Approach

Cognition refers to mental activity including thinking, remembering, learning and using language. When we apply a cognitive approach to learning and teaching, we focus on theunderstaning of information and concepts. If we are able to understand theconnections between concepts, break down information and rebuild with logicalconnections, then our rention of material and understanding will increase.

When we are aware of these mental actions, monitor them and control ourlearning processes it is called metacognition

Other psychological approaches focus on different components of humanactivity. Behaviorists focuson the examination and analysis of objectively observable and quantifiablebehaviorial events. Those who favor the humantistic approach focus on theindividualin relation to their own environment. Human welfare, values, and dignity aremajor components of this theory.

Thought processes have been studied by philosophers for centuries. However, the psychological studyt of cognition is a relatively new area ofstudy with its origins in the 1950's. The study of metacognition is evennewer, much of the work in this area originated in the 1970's.

Rejecting the pure stimulus-response approachof the behaviorists, cognitive psychology draws much from theGestaltists who focus upon insight anddefine it as "the sudden perception of relationships among elements of aproblem situation."(LeFrancois, 1972). Cognitive theories view learning asa process of recognition. The learner perceives new relationshipsamong the parts of a problems.

Reseachers who contributed significantly to the development of cognitivepsychology include Jerome Bruner, whodeveloped a learning theory based upon catergorization, andDavid Ausubel, who attempted to explainmeaningful verbal learning as a phenomenon of consciousness rather than ofbehavior.

Cognitive theory maintains that how one thinkslargely detemines how one feels and behaves. This relates to and incorporates to all forms of knowing,including memory, psycholinguistics, thinking, comprehension, motivation, andperception.

Memory is an importantcomponent ofthis theory. Much of the material learned in school is dependent on rotememorization of declarative or facutal knowledge. Recently attempts have been made to develop methods of teaching which are basedon meaningful integration of material and the mastery of procedural knowledge. Thinking, which varies from situation tosituation, will greatly effect how individuals behave in a given situation. Understanding of language, or psycholinguistics,is esstential to our understanding of print and oral acquistion of knowledge. Comprehension and perception willallow individuals to interpret information. Lastly, the overall motivation of the learner will determine howeffectively the information is retained or processed.

According to Kate McGilly (1996), students are not learning to their full potentialdue to the fact that more often than not, they use rote memoryprocedures in the classroom. With the increased competition in the work forceand jobs becoming more demanding, students need to be more prepared for higherlearning and the job market with skills that evolve from cognitive theory. These skills, including study skills, social skills, problem solving, andorganizational skills to name a few, should be taught and integrated across thecurriculum.

This web page was originally created by Kristin Raines, Michelle Pronti, and DickTaylor in 1996.