Role of Content Knowledge in Cognition & Information Processing

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will talk about content knowledge, what it is and what is its role in cognition and information processing. Building on students' content knowledge can help them construct new knowledge.

What is Content Knowledge?

Content knowledge is knowledge about a particular content area, such as a math teacher who has content knowledge about math. Cognition is learning, or the processes of increasing knowledge through senses, experience, and thinking. Information processing describes the ways cognition can take content knowledge and integrate it into one's knowledge base. When teachers have strong content knowledge, they are better able to assist in the cognition and information processing of their students.

Teachers as Experts

Content knowledge alone is necessary, but it is not sufficient for effective teaching. Specific content knowledge within a discipline like math, science, literature, or social studies can add expertise and in-depth knowledge within a particular field.

In addition to content knowledge, effective teachers also need to know about classroom management, student development, and instructional strategies to create effective, meaningful, and informative lessons that will enable students to acquire that knowledge to help increase and form their learning experience. Most of these pedagogical skills are interdisciplinary and generalizable across the curriculum.

Constructing Knowledge

Constructivism is a teaching philosophy that views cognition and information processing as a means of constructing concepts and building new knowledge. Students use dialogue, inquiry, authentic experiences, and problem solving to think critically about content. Because building on a previous knowledge base is fundamental to constructivism, teachers use expertise in content knowledge to improve cognition and information processing. With a constructivist approach, students are seen as the builders of their own learning experience. In a constructivist classroom, instructors build content knowledge for students, which helps them learn.

Constructivism views learning as a process, like building construction, where the instructor assists by providing expertise to students who are having authentic educational experiences.
image of construction

Integrating Content Knowledge in the Classroom

There are many strategies that a teacher might employ, when teaching a particular subject, to use their content knowledge to improve cognition and information processing in students. These strategies work to increase student content expertise in a way that allows them to construct their own knowledge. Students are empowered to take greater control over their learning as they move toward mastery of increasingly more difficult content.

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