Cognitivism as a Learning Theory
Learning theories in general have certain effective qualities separately, yet, they cannot stand on their own. For example, the type of learning explained by behaviorists in this digital age is linked to the basic behaviorist view that emphasis should be placed on observable measurable outcomes in students (Ertmer & Newby, 1993, p. 56). Mary P. Driscoll demonstrated that through cognitivism, as an instructor, I may organize information, direct attention, enhance encoding and retrieval, provide practice opportunities and help learners to monitor their own learning (Driscoll, 2005, p. 110). Karl Kapp wrote on his blog site about conversations he had with Stephen Downes regarding various schools of educational thoughts. Kapp then mentioned how Bill Kerr added an insightful summary on that dialog. I do agree with Kapp that the most resonating point the Kerr raised was, “It seems to me that each _ism is offering something useful without any of them being complete or stand alone in their own right” (Kerr, 2007).
For one, what Kerr stated on his blog regarding curriculum reform is indeed true. He stated that learning theory is indispensible to curriculum reform effort. I personally am skeptic when it comes to theories on a whole, but as we know the education system in the United States is in need of change and we are left with little choice but to work with the theories that we have, since they will be our foundation to build processes that will improve learning. Who knows, maybe by the end of this course, I will lean more towards a single learning theory! For now, my personal view is similar to that of Kerr. I believe that each theory has important elements that may very well facilitate learning. I see a behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism and connectivism as analogous to a quartet, singing together while having specific roles to play.
So yes, like Kerr, I believe that although many may criticize behaviorists for not taking into consideration what goes on in the mind, still there remains the idea that actions which are followed by rewards are often repeated. Sure, behaviorists presented the “Black Box Metaphor” mainly because they did not know how to study the mental processes that went on inside the mind (Driscoll, 2005, p. 34). I am not saying that behaviorism is perfect and can stand on its own, but that certain aspects of the theory makes sense. Both Downes and Kerr made a valid point (to a certain extent) about cognitivism. First, Downes praised cognitivists for declaring that learning occurs internally and through social interactions with others. However, afterwards, Downes mentioned that cognitivists misrepresented the mind by depicting it as similar to a computer. Kerr responded in agreement that the mind is completely different from computers which included connectionist machines. However, how would one account for what I am about to say next? I personally (in desperation) programmed my mind to learn a full repertoire of songs through sensory input in one night for a musical tour the following day. I was able to performed one full album of unfamiliar songs flawlessly with the band! All I had done was play the songs repeatedly while I slept. How would one explain that phenomenon? For this reason, I believe that the mind is programmable and similar to a computer in many respects.
Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Ertmer, P. and Newby, T. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6 (4), 50-72.
Kapp, K. (2007). Out and about: Discussion on educational schools of thought [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.kaplaneduneering.com/kappnotes/index.php/2007/01/out-and-about-discussion-on-educational/
Kerr, B. (2007). _isms as filter, not blinker [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2007/01/isms-as-filter-not-blinker.html