Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Classroom Examples of Cognitive Learning Theory

This week in class we are learning about Cognitive Learning Theory, and learning about and using tools that support cognitive learning in the classroom.  Dr. Orey (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011) discusses several components of Cognitive Learning Theory in the Laureate Education video.  Among those discussed are Pavio's dual coding hypothesis, Information processing to short term to long term memory flow, and specific components of long term memory, such as long term memory storing declarative facts and information, procedures, and episodic memory. 

Our class textbook Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works gives several examples of these theories being used in the classroom.  Expository advance organizers (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski, 2007) include brochures, definitions, rubrics, and programs.  These are all examples of supporting Pavio's dual coding hypothesis, as pictures are associated with concepts and have a better chance of being retrieved in the future.

Organizing and brainstorming software (Pitler et al, 2007), such as Kidspiration, allow learners to add and organize information as it is being introduced.  This supports the idea that declarative facts are stored in long-term memory, and that long-term memory is improved by the connections made between ideas.  If data is not organized going in, retrieval will be more difficult or impossible.  Using organizing software also can give that visual picture which once again supports Pavio's dual coding hypothesis. 

Multimedia again supports Pavio's hypothesis as pictures and images are associated with concepts.  Virtual field trips takes this one step further and gives the episodic experience that helps with long-term memory.  If students are able to view important historical places online or take a live tour of a museum, that long-term memory will be strengthened and that concept will have a much more chance of being recalled at a later date. 

As a math teacher, I was interested in how I could apply cognitive learning theory to mathematics.  In reflecting on my own teaching, I realized that thinking through a problem out loud, which I do frequently with my students, supports the creation of an episodic memory for my students, especially if I am lucky enough to give my out-loud thought process the right amount of humor and able to make it interesting.  This is an important realization as I think it is important to realize some of these techniques are already being practiced in class, and now I have reason and theory behind them. 

For further ideas on how teaching math and cognitive theory can be combined, please visit this website by The Access Center, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. 



Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program five: Cognitive learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from http://laureate.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5700267&CPURL=laureate.ecollege.com&Survey=1&47=2594577&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=0&bhcp=1
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.


  1. I am glad that you are a teacher who still holds on to humor. I'm sure if I were a student in your class, not only would I be a successful learner, but I would also be happy and comfortable within your classroom. I also like how you refer to thinking out loud. This activity allows children to get in your head and view the actual cognitive process. They will see that you are also human and must use prior knowledge, connect it with the content at hand, and then create new knowledge. This is not an easy process, but I am sure you are an exceleent model. Plus, you are also allowing audiotory learners the chance to hear the process instead of simply visualizing it within their own minds. I think I need to start doing more of my own modeling of the though process with my Kindergarteners. Sometimes, especially while working with young children we tend to forget that they may not know how to complete all the necessary steps (which we simply perform naturally) to acquire new knowledge without us showing them first. GREAT POST!

  2. Michael,
    I like the way you reflect upon how you deliver your “out-loud thought process”. It is important for students to think about a problem before starting to solve it. It is important to model your thoughts on how to approach a problem. Also, using humor and bringing enthusiasm helps when explaining complex mathematical material. When I show excitement for math, I see my students pay greater attention. I also try to instill a feeling of accomplishment in my students when they are able to work through complicated material and I find that it motivates them as well.

  3. Thank you for the website. It was extremely informative. I use a number of those learning strategies in math. I will share this website with other special education teachers. My math class is very noisy. The skill they are working on is “one less ten, ten more ones” is difficult for my students. They are at different stages of development of this skill. Some are verbalizing and demonstrating the skill, while others are verbalizing as they work the problems. This seems to work, and I believe in trying anything that works.