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Cognitive Theories of Learning: How We Process Information and Remember What We Have Learned

1. How cognitive theories relate to learning

Cognitive theories are theories which aim to provide insight into how we process information, that is, how we learn. Anderson ( 1976, 1983) proposed two kinds of memory. The first is declarative memory, which is our memory for facts and events. The second is production memory, which is our memory for the skills and procedures we use to perform tasks. Anderson’s theory has been very influential, and many other researchers have proposed similar models of memory.

Rehearsal is a key process in memory. By rehearsing information, we keep it active in our short-term memory, and this makes it more likely that we will remember it in the long-term. There are two types of rehearsal: maintenance rehearsal and elaborative rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal involves repeating information over and over again so that we do not forget it. Elaborative rehearsal involves thinking about the meaning of the information and how it relates to other things we know. This type of rehearsal is more effective than maintenance rehearsal in terms of helping us to remember information in the long-term.

Semantic memory is our knowledge of the meaning of words and concepts. It allows us to understand the world around us and communicate with others. Categorical memory is a type of semantic memory in which we store knowledge about specific categories of things. For example, we might have a categorical memory for different types of animals. Procedural memory is a type of semantic memory in which we store knowledge about how to do things. For example, we might have a procedural memory for riding a bike or tying our shoelaces.

2. 1 Memory

Memory is a key cognitive process which allows us to store and retrieve information. There are two main types of memory: declarative memory and production memory.

2. 1. Declarative memory

Declarative memory is our memory for facts and events. It allows us to remember what happened in the past, and it is important for our everyday activities. Anderson (1976) proposed that there are two types of declarative memory:

semantic memory, which is our knowledge of the meaning of words and concepts; and
episodic memory, which is our memory for specific events that have happened to us.

2. 1.2 Production memory

Production memory is our memory for the skills and procedures we use to perform tasks. It allows us to remember how to do things, and it is important for our everyday activities. Anderson (1983) proposed that there are two types of production memory:

procedural memory, which is our memory for how to do things; and
conditional knowledge, which is our knowledge of when and how to use the skills we have learned.

2. 2 Rehearsal

Rehearsal is a key process in memory. By rehearsing information, we keep it active in our short-term memory, and this makes it more likely that we will remember it in the long-term. There are two types of rehearsal: maintenance rehearsal and elaborative rehearsal. Maintenance rehearsal involves repeating information over and over again so that we do not forget it. Elaborative rehearsal involves thinking about the meaning of the information and how it relates to other things we know] This type of rehearsal is more effective than maintenance rehearsal in terms of helping us to remember information in the long-term. imaginal rehearsal, which means generating mental images of the information to be remembered; verbal rehearsal, which means repeating the information out loud; or motor rehearsal, which means physically acting out the information to be remembered.

2. 2.1 Short-term memory

Short-term memory is our memory for information that we have just learned. It has a limited capacity, and information can only be stored in it for a short period of time. Rehearsal is important for keeping information in short-term memory. If we do not rehearse information, it will quickly decay from our memory.

2. 2.2 Long-term memory

Long-term memory is our memory for information that we have learned over a long period of time. It has a much larger capacity than short-term memory, and information can be stored in it for a very long time. Elaborative rehearsal is important for transferring information from short-term to long-term memory. If we do not rehearse information elaboratively, it is less likely to be transferred to long-term memory and more likely to be forgotten.

2. 3 Semantic memory

Semantic memory is our knowledge of the meaning of words and concepts. It allows us to understand the world around us and communicate with others. There are two types of semantic memory: categorical memory and procedural memory. Categorical memory is a type of semantic memory in which we store knowledge about specific categories of things. For example, we might have a categorical memory for different types of animals. Procedural memory is a type of semantic memory in which we store knowledge about how to do things. For example, we might have procedural memories for riding a bike or tying our shoelaces.

2. 3.1 Categorical memory

Categorical memory is a type of semantic memory in which we store knowledge about specific categories of things. For example, we might have a categorical memory for different types of animals. We encode categorical memories by creating mental prototypes of the things in the category. These prototypes help us to recognize and remember things in the category.

2. 3.2 Procedural memory

Procedural memory is a type of semantic memory in which we store knowledge about how to do things. For example, we might have procedural memories for riding a bike or tying our shoelaces. We encode procedural memories by creating mental representations of the sequences of actions required to perform the task. These representations help us to carry out the task automatically, without having to think about each individual step.

FAQ

Cognitive theories are theories that focus on how the mind works and how people process information.

Cognitive theories relate to learning by providing a framework for understanding how people learn and remember information.

Some specific examples of how cognitive theories can be applied to learning include using mnemonic devices to improve memory, using scaffolding to help students build knowledge, and using metacognition to help students monitor their own learning.

It is important to understand and apply cognitive theories to learning because they can provide insights into how people learn best and can help educators design more effective instructional materials and activities.

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