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What Is Cognitive Education?

By Karize Uy
Updated May 21, 2024
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Cognitive education is a teaching method that focuses on stimulating and developing students’ cognitive abilities, which, in turn, will improve their learning capacity. This is the most common method used when trying to achieve things like passing assessments or acing scholarship exams. This method views cognitive skills holistically and includes social, emotional, and imaginative aspects, instead of just looking at intelligence. This means teaching and learning will not be biased against economic status, gender, race, or even previous academic performances. “Thinking schools” that apply this educational method rely heavily on Dr. Reuven Feuerstein’s “Instrumental Enrichment Program,” developed from his theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability. This is also a basis for some of the most common methods of teaching whether in-person, virtual, or otherwise. It makes use of a combination of different strategies that appeal to the cognition of students.

One of the main principles behind cognitive education is “learning to learn.” A student’s ability to learn does not just rely on his DNA and inherited traits, but also depends on the environment. For example, a student who is naturally smart who doesn't prepare for any scholarship exam is still more likely to fail than a student who has prepared enough. Unlike conventional teaching methods that quantify a student’s intelligence by test scores, this newer teaching method looks beyond scores and asks why scores are either high or low. In this way, cognitive education can develop learning techniques that can help students maximize their learning experiences. But although this method doesn't focus too much on the scores and how they came to be, this teaching approach allows students to have more permanent learning in various subjects. This is especially helpful for passing scholarship exams or getting into Ivy League schools.

For a child to “learn how to learn,” Dr. Feuerstein proposed a method called Mediated Learning Experience. This simply means there is a liaison between a student and the learned material. This mediator or mentor will teach the basic up until master up to the time when a student can learn on their own. Simply put, another person—usually in the form of a mentor—acts as the “mediator,” from whom a student will learn many skills to improve his learning. This person can't be just any person with teaching experience. They have to understand the key concepts of cognition and how it may change the learning pace depending on race, gender, exposure to learning materials, and more. After being equipped, students can now directly learn from their environments, but still hold a strong relationship with their mentors. And by mentor, we don't just mean teachers in formal learning settings like schools. Mentors can also be online tutors, face-to-face tutors, or even the kid's parents.

One technique that cognitive education can teach students is mind-mapping. This technique can train a student to explore certain subject matters in unlimited ways by asking, “What do you think of when you hear the word… ?” This makes recall faster and easier for a person, even for academically challenged students. The student can then sketch a map or a web using any figures and words that he can associate with the word. This technique is especially helpful for new students or freshmen who need a way to not be overwhelmed by new subjects all of which have varying difficulties. This will help him remember what the lesson is about while creating new ideas for himself. The beauty of this method is that it can apply at any age. A student can be in grade school, a junior, or a senior, and the method remains the same. Mind maps are useful not just for students but also for any groups of people in brainstorming sessions. Your child can learn it at school, or you can reinforce it at home by hiring an online tutor for them. This way, their education runs throughout the day and not just when they're in a formal school setting.

The approach of cognitive education also teaches the “creation of insight.” This can be seen in the natural progression of education. Freshmen are taught concepts which will culminate into crafting or designing something to demonstrate concepts by their senior year. This is especially helpful in subjects that require heavy memorization. Instead of just presenting, for example, a list of words a student should understand and spell correctly, cognitive educators can coach students to break down the words, associate them with real-life examples, and find patterns that will help them remember the correct spelling. It is a tedious process especially for younger students, but once achieved, everything will become easier and smoother for both the students and the teachers. These techniques will not only help a student memorize the words, but also teach him how to use them long after the lesson is finished. With these strategies, cognitive education answers the question of “how to learn,” instead of the traditional “what to learn.” The answer to the 'how' is more permanent and can be applied to other fields of study. This should prepare you to take any types of assessments or standardized tests. Approaching the learning process this way can help a student be more equipped for the world outside the classroom walls. Parents can better prepare their kids by getting outside help in the form of online tutors. These professionals serve as wonderful extensions to standardized forms of learning.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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