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Cognitive Learning Theory

What does 'cognitive' mean?

Before understanding what Cognitive Learning Theory is, it is important to ensure you know and understand what 'cognitive' means. 

According to the dictionary definition, Cognitive means: 

"of, relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering)"

So essentially it is referring to the brain and its functions, intellectually. 

With that in mind, what do we mean when we say, Cognitive Learning Theory?

  • This is an approach to learning that focuses on the way in which information is processed, remembered and acquired, and transformed into new knowledge

  • A well known theorist who is probably the most known for this type of learning is Jean Piaget. 

  • Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development proposes four main stages of intellectual development throughout childhood. These are as follows:

    • Sensorimotor Stage (birth - 2years)- children primarily learn about the world through their sesnes.​

    • Pre-operational Stage (2-7 years) - this is where language begins to emerge alongside imaginary (pretend) play.

    • Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years) - the beginnings of logic and analysis, but still a very fixed understanding.

    • Formal Operational Stage (11+ years) - understanding is developed around abstract thinking, hypothetical ideas and deductive reasoning. 

  • This learning theory focuses on the internal mental processes, rather than external factors such as social interactions. 

  • Other terms associated with Cognitive Learning Theory and Piaget's work are 'Schema' ("a cohesive, repeatable action”) and the ways in which these are formed, through "assimilation", "accommodation", "disequilibrium" or "equilibrium". 

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