Learning Theory Cognitivism

The earliest challenge to the behaviorists came in a publication in 1929 by Bode, a gestalt psychologist . He criticized behaviorists for being too dependent on overt behavior to explain learning. Gestalt psychologists proposed looking at the patterns rather than isolated events. Gestalt views of learning have been incorporated into what have come to be labeled cognitive theories. Two key assumptions underlie this cognitive approach: (1) that the memory system is an active organized processor of information and (2) that prior knowledge plays an important role in learning. Cognitive theories look beyond behavior to explain brain-based learning. Cognitivists consider how human memory works to promote learning. For example, the physiological processes of sorting and encoding information and events into short term memory and long term memory are important to educators working under the cognitive theory . The major difference between gestaltists and behaviorists is the locus of control over the learning activity: the individual learner is more key to gestaltists than the environment that behaviorists emphasize.

Once memory theories like the Atkinson-Shiffrin memory model and Baddeley's working memory model were established as a theoretical framework in cognitive psychology, new cognitive frameworks of learning began to emerge during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Today, researchers are concentrating on topics like cognitive load and information processing theory. These theories of learning play a role in influencing instructional design. Aspects of cognitivism can be found in learning how to learn, social role acquisition, intelligence, learning, and memory as related to age.

Educators employing a cognitivist approach to learning would view learning as internal mental process (including insight, information processing, memory, perception) where in order to develop learner capacity and skills to improve learning, the educator structures content of learning activities to focus on building intelligence and cognitive and meta-cognitive development.