Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cognitive Learning Theories

This week we heard from Dr. Orey about how students need to process information in order to be able to move knowledge from their short term memory to their long term memory. Students are able to store information in their long term memory by connecting it to their prior knowledge. Information can be classified into three categories: declarative, procedural or episodic (Laureate Education Inc., 2011). When teachers are able to take the concept they want students to comprehend and apply it to an activity students will be engaged in then they are more likely to store it and be able to retrieve it as an episodic memory.
We looked at two strategies teachers use in classroom instruction. In order to make them more effective and engaging, teachers are encouraged to integrate technology. The first strategy discussed was cues, questions and advance organizers (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007).  Teachers are encouraged to use cues and questions to engage students’ prior knowledge but not to be too vague. Be specific and tell the students what is expected of them. Teachers need to elicit critical thinking skills through the types of questions they ask. Watering down a lesson does not stimulate deeper thinking and understanding. Moving questions down Bloom’s Taxonomy will deepen their thinking. Using advance organizers help students organize information to enhance their learning. They are able to make sense of lessons and use the organizer to help study for tests. They are several ways teachers can enhance understanding by using technology instruction with their cues, questions and advance organizers. One method is creating concept maps. Here teachers are able to give the students an essential question along with bits of information to stimulate their prior knowledge to create a base to apply their new understanding. Then students gather information to connect their new learning to other concepts. Teachers can also incorporate videos, pictures and audio clips with the map to reach all learners. Having students apply their learning to complete advance organizers carries them through a process which helps them move the knowledge from their short term memory to their long term memory.
The second strategy studied this week was summarizing and note taking. This strategy requires students to learn how to take new knowledge, summarize it for their own understanding and create a visual they can use to study for assessments. They are several ways students need to practice taking notes to find which works best for them and it is important that teachers demonstrate these various methods (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn, & Malenoski, 2007). Students need to learn that the more notes they take the better. There are ways teachers can use technology to teach these strategies as well. The newest one is found in Microsoft Word. Students can set up the software to delete repeated information or help summarize typing. This creates a visual of how they need to change their writing to fit the concept being taught. Another method can be used in Word or Power Point; it is the idea of combination notes. Here students record facts, pictures and then a summary if information gathered. This method seems better suited for teaching third graders. It also reaches both the linguistic and visual learners as well as some kinesthetic learners. The strategy of note taking engages students to focus on what is important. They can delete unnecessary information; replace words they do not know with synonyms; and keep only the important information new to them. They can reflect on their prior knowledge to connect the new facts, procedure or episode. Having them create a visual outline of their notes or summary using one of several typing software helps stimulate the learning process to create permanent relationships among the new material.
Students are generally eager to learn when they can relate the information to something they already know. They become engaged when the lesson involves them using some form of technology. Effective teachers are able to create stimulating lessons that engage students in the learning process.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom         instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. I really like how you connected how a learner who experiences an activity spurs episodic memory. Not only do I think that this idea is true for concept mapping, but I think it is extremely valid for virtual field trips. Think about how memory uses dual coding. When teachers can connect a picture with text or content, students inevitable make connections and further develop a more readily retrievable long-term memory. After all, that IS the purpose of an educator; to create experiences in content for students to recall and apply years from now. I cannot think of any better way than that of concept mapping and virtual field trips to assist in this process using 21st century cognitive learning technology. Great work this week!


  2. I taught middle school science for many years, and it was sometimes difficult to relate some of the content to what the students already knew. The learners would often time come into class with zero background knowledge, and this made my job more difficult. When these situations arose, I would try to provide lessons that helped the students create emotion and memory, as suggested by Dr. Wolfe (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). When I taught genetics, the students had very little concept of genes and they had a hard time visualizing genotypes and phenotypes. So I did an activity with my classes called ‘Build-a-Baby’. The students would pair up as a mother and father, and flip a coin for their baby’s traits. The students then drew a picture of their baby based on the traits they flipped for. Of course, everyone always loved the activity and it helped the learners to visualize difficult concepts taught in genetics. This is an example of episodic experiences that students should have in school. These activities elicit a positive emotional response, helping the students to commit the information to memory.

    Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program two: Brain research and learning [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from

  3. Judy,

    I enjoyed reading how you can easily and effectively integrate technology into these instructional strategies. Concept maps and graphic organizers do not have to be made up solely of rectangles and squares filled with words. This week, we learn that these applications can consist of pictures, images, interactive website URLs, and even videos. Students are most definitely engaged when their learning comes to life, rather than stays still on paper. Students are making valuable and relatable connections throughout the lesson/unit while sorting through a multitude of information.

    ~ Malissa