Melissa has a Masters in Education and a PhD in Educational Psychology. She has worked as an instructional designer at UVA SOM.
Our third grade teacher, Andi, is starting a lesson on reptiles. Let's see how she's doing.
'Good morning, class! What is a reptile? No one? What is a reptile?'
Uh-oh. It looks like Andi could use our help again! She seems to have no understanding of how her students process new information. Let's give her some assistance by explaining the major assumptions of cognitive development psychology in the classroom.
Cognitive development is the branch of psychology that addresses learning through information processing, reasoning and memory. Before moving forward, let's define information processing. Information processing is the theoretical perspective of psychology that focuses on the ways in which learners think about and process new information.
The study of these internal mental states provides cognitive psychologists with knowledge of how information is perceived, processed, stored and retrieved. The information gained through cognitive development research is then used in the classroom to aid teachers in their understanding of how a child learns and how instruction can be made more effective.
The basic assumptions of cognitive psychology guide educational implications for the classroom. Let us help Andi understand these assumptions and apply them to her lesson.
First, the learner's cognitive processes influence the nature of what is learned. People learn new information more easily when they can relate it to something they already know. Teachers must consider what they want their students to learn and also how they can most effectively learn it. Let's see Andi put this assumption into action.
'Okay, class, we are going to learn about reptiles today. Reptiles are similar to other animals that we have learned about, but they have some different, distinguishing features, as well. Who can give me examples of a reptile?'
Good job, Andi. By telling the students that reptiles are like other animals, they can begin to place the word 'reptile' into the animal organizational scheme instead of not understanding how the new word fits into their existing knowledge.
Andi was doing so well. We need to continue to help her out! The second assumption explains that people are selective about what they process and learn. When learners are bombarded with information, such as text, pictures, sounds and distractions, they can typically only handle a small fraction of the information at one time. Therefore, being selective with what they process is important. Teachers should help their students identify the most important things to learn and help them understand why those things are important facts and concepts.
'Okay, class, reptiles have a few characteristics that make them very unique. First, they are cold-blooded, and second, they are covered in scales.'
Very good, Andi. By pointing out the most important facts, the students know what they should focus their attention on.
Our third assumption explains that meaning is constructed by the learner, rather than being derived directly from the environment. Learners take many separate pieces of information and use them to create an understanding or interpretation of the world around them. This is referred to as construction. In order to encourage cognitive development, teachers should provide experiences that will help students put together the individual concepts in order to create a whole idea or concept.
'Class, you're doing a great job. Now, I would like for you to think about the characteristics of a reptile and draw your favorite reptile in its environment.'
Andi has finished telling the class about reptiles. Now, she gives them time to draw reptiles and their environments. At the end, each child can show his or her drawing and talk about why they drew that particular reptile and what is special about its habitat. This will allow the students to take the many separate pieces of information about reptiles and create an overall understanding of them.
Next, prior knowledge and beliefs play a major role in the meanings that people construct. In the classroom, different people learn different things despite the fact that they are all hearing the same information from the teacher. This is because they have different bodies of knowledge and beliefs from which to draw upon as they interpret new information and events. Students have their own distinct histories, and they are likely to come from a wide variety of neighborhoods and cultural backgrounds.
Finally, learners are actively involved in their own learning. Psychologists do not believe that people simply absorb knowledge from their surroundings. Instead, learners are and, in fact, must be active participants in their own learning. Teachers should plan activities that get students to actively think about the ideas and concepts presented.
It's time for Andi to wrap up her lesson and give homework.
'Class, you've done a wonderful job today. For homework, I would like for you to continue to think about what we learned and choose an environment that a reptile would not want to live in. Be ready to explain why they would be unhappy in that environment for tomorrow's class.'
Great job, Andi. You have provided a lesson that incorporates the basic assumptions of cognitive development, and your class has gained new knowledge effectively.
So, in summary, during this lesson, we helped Andi learn about the basic assumptions that drive cognitive development psychology in the classroom. In order to effectively impart new concepts and ideas, teachers should relate new information to existing knowledge. Teachers should also point out a few pieces of information to focus on, as opposed to bombarding students with tons of information at once. Teachers should remember that learners construct their own meaning of new knowledge through activities that help connect all of the individual pieces of knowledge into a meaningful whole. Also, prior knowledge and the learner's background play a role in how they process new information. Finally, learners should be actively engaged in their learning and not expected to simply absorb knowledge from being lectured to by a teacher.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to:
- Define cognitive development and information processing
- Paraphrase the basic assumptions of cognitive psychology and explain how to apply them in the classroom
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