ED 2161 Ch. 6

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1. Describe principles of cognitive learning theory, and identify applications of the principles in classrooms and in our personal lives.
• Learning and development depend on experience is a basic principle of cognitive learning theory. Teachers apply this principle when they provide experiences for their students.
• People want their experiences to make sense. This principle is illustrated in how commonly statements such as “That makes sense” or “That doesn’t make any sense” are used both in and outside of school.
• To make sense of their experiences, learners construct knowledge. This explains why we see people generate original ideas, ideas they haven’t gotten from any outside source.
• Knowledge that learners construct depends on what they already know. Knowledge isn’t constructed in a vacuum. Effective teachers link new knowledge to information learners already possess.
• Social interaction facilitates learning. We are social beings, and social interaction contributes to learning. Effective teachers use questioning and small-group work to encour- age students to actively engage with content.
2. Describe differences between cognitive and social constructivism, and analyze examples of each.
• Cognitive constructivism focuses on individual construc-
tion of knowledge. Cognitive constructivists believe that when an experience disrupts an individual’s equi- librium, she reconstructs understanding to reestablish equilibrium.
• Social constructivism emphasizes that individuals first construct knowledge in a social environment and then appropriate it. Knowledge grows directly out of the social interaction.
• Emphasis on sociocultural theory, communities of learn- ers, cognitive apprenticeships, and situated cognition are all applications of social constructivism to instruction.
3. Explain misconceptions, how they occur, and how they can be eliminated.
• Misconceptions are beliefs that are inconsistent with evi-
dence or commonly accepted explanations.
• Prior experiences, appearances that lead people to infer cause-effect relationships between two objects or events because they occur together, social forces, and even the misuse of language all can contribute to misconceptions.
• Changing misconceptions is difficult because the change disrupts individuals’ equilibrium, the misconceptions are often consistent with everyday experiences, and indi- viduals don’t recognize inconsistencies between new
information and their existing beliefs.
• In order for conceptual change to occur, existing concep-
tions must become dissatisfying, an alternative concep- tion must be understandable, and the alternative must be useful in the real world.
4. Describe suggestions for classroom practice, and explain how each is grounded in principles of cognitive learning theory.
• Instruction based on principles of cognitive learning
theory emphasizes high-quality examples and other repre- sentations of content, student interaction, and connecting content to the real world.
• Teachers who ground their instruction in the principles of cognitive learning theory realize that lecturing and explaining often fail to promote deep understanding in learners.
• Basing instruction on principles of cognitive learning theory requires teachers to use ongoing assessment as an integral part of the teaching-learning process.
1.1 Describe the principles of cognitive learning theories.
1.1 The principles on which cognitive learning theory is based are:
• Learning and development depend on experience. This principle is evident in our everyday life. Learning to drive is a simple example. If our only experience with driving involves vehicles with automatic trans- missions, our ability to drive is less developed than it would be if we have experiences driving cars with both automatic transmissions and with standard stick shifts.
• People want their experiences to make sense. People instinctively strive to understand their experiences. They want the world to make sense, and as a result, they attempt to create understanding that makes sense to them.
• To make sense of their experiences, learners construct knowledge. Learners don’t behave like tape recorders, keeping an exact copy of what they hear or read in their memories. Instead, they mentally modify the experiences so they make sense. This is consistent with a drive to understand their world, which was ex- plained in the description of the second principle.
• Knowledge that learners construct depends on what they already know. People construct understand- ing based on what they already know. For example, many people believe that summers in the northern hemisphere are warmer than winters because we are closer to sun in the summer. (We, in fact, are slightly farther away, but the sun’s rays are more di- rect.) This idea is based on knowing that as we move closer to an open fire or a hot stove burner we get warmer.
• Social interaction facilitates learning. As people dis- cuss ideas, they construct understanding that they wouldn’t have acquired on their own. This is consist- ent with the old adage, “Two heads are better than one.”
1.2 You and a friend are trying to install a sound card in your computer, but you’re a little uncertain about how to do it. You open the computer, look inside, and as you talk about how to proceed, she suggests looking to see where the speakers are attached. “Good idea,” you say, and you easily install the card. Which principle of learning is best illustrated by this example? Explain how the principle is being applied.
1.2 This illustrates the principle social interaction facilitates learning. You have a problem, you discuss it, and you solve it during the course of the discussion. You can solve the problem because your friend provided you with information—suggesting looking at where the speakers are attached—and you build on her idea.
1.3 You and a friend are studying the accompanying drawing, which represents a balance with two containers above it of the same volume. The con- tainer on the left is full of water, and the one on the right is full of cooking oil. When the two con- tainers are placed on the balance, you’re asked if (a) the left side will go down, (b) the right side will go down, or (c) the balance will remain level.
Your friend erroneously concludes that the right side of the balance will go down. Identify at least three principles of learning that apply in your friend’s conclusion. Explain the application of each.
1.3 The following principles of learning all apply in this example: People want their experiences to make sense; to make sense of their experiences, people construct knowl- edge; and the knowledge that people construct depends on what they already know. Since oil is “thicker” than water, it makes sense that it would also be “heavier.” So,
concluding that the side with the oil would go down is a sensible conclusion.
Your friend constructed this conclusion on his own, and he constructed it because it made sense to him. It’s unlikely that someone explained it this way or that he read it, since the conclusion is invalid.
In general, “thicker” substances are indeed more dense than those less thick, so your friend constructed this conclusion based on what he already knew, or on the basis of past experiences.
2.1 Describe the primary difference between cognitive and social constructivism.
2.1 Cognitive constructivism is based on the view that knowledge construction is an internal, individual process, whereas social constructivism is grounded in the position that knowledge construction first occurs in the social environment and then is appropriated and internalized by individuals.
2.2 In the case study at the beginning of the chapter, is Suzanne’s thinking a better example of cognitive or of social constructivism? Explain why you think so.
2.2 Suzanne’s thinking better illustrates cognitive con- structivism. She had a clear (to her) schema that guided her thinking (her belief that keeping the number of tiles equal on each side of the fulcrum would make the beam balance), and she brought this view to the learn- ing activity. It didn’t result from her interaction with her peers.
2.3 A second-grade teacher wants her students to understand diphthongs (speech sounds that begin with one vowel sound and gradually change to another vowel sound within the same syllable, as oi in boil). She presents her students with this passage:
A boy, Jeremy, walked over by the window of his house one evening and looked at the
full moon. It was so bright that he could see his shadow on the floor. Off in the tree, with a branch that was bowed, he heard an owl hoot.
She has students make observations of the itali- cized words and then helps them pronounce each correctly.
Is this is an example of situated cognition? Pro- vide evidence from the example to support your assessment.
2.3 This is an example of situated cognition. The teacher presented several examples of diphthongs—oy, ou, oo, and ow. However, ou was used in two different ways— house and could; oo is used in three different ways— looks, moon, and floor; and ow is used in two different ways—bowed and owl. The children would have been unable to determine the differences if the examples had not been embedded (situated) in the context of the passage.
3.1 What are misconceptions, and how do they occur?
3.1 A misconception is a belief that is inconsistent with evidence or commonly accepted explanations. Sim- ply, they occur because people construct them, and the principles of learning discussed at the beginning of the chapter help us understand why. First, people have experience consistent with the misconception, like you saw with the example of the ball in flight, and second, the misconception makes sense to the person who originally constructs it.
3.2 Describe four common sources of misconceptions, and provide an example of each.
3.2 People’s prior experiences are the most common source of misconceptions, and many examples exist. For instance, as you saw earlier in the chapter, because 5 is greater than 3, some children believe that 1/5 is greater than 1/3.
Appearances are a second source of misconcep- tions. For example, because oil appears “thick,” some people, until they think about it, believe that it is more
dense than water. But, we know it’s less dense, since it floats on water.
Society is a third source. For instance, minority youth are often led to believe that professional sports is a realistic career goal as an adult, but statistics indicate that the vast majority of student athletes never make it to the pro ranks.
Finally, language can contribute to misconcep- tions. The news media will periodically refer to the danger of “heavy metals” such as lead and mercury, when, in fact, any metal can be “heavy” depending on the amount of it that exists.
3.3 Explain how misconceptions can be changed or eliminated.
3.3 First, the original misconception must become dis- satisfying. This means that students need convincing evidence that the misconception is invalid, such as Suzanne saw when they tried her solution and it didn’t work.
Second, an alternative explanation must become satisfying. When Suzanne could see that the beam would balance if she took both the number of tiles and the distance from the fulcrum into account, the alter- native conception became more satisfying.
Third, the new conception must be useful. Suzanne was able to explain the solution to an additional prob- lem using the new conception.
4.1 Describe the suggestions for classroom practice, and explain how each is grounded in principles of cognitive learning theory.
4.1 The suggestions for classroom practice and their con- nection to the principles of learning are outlined as follows:
• Provide your students with experiences using high-
quality examples. Examples and other representa- tions are the experiences students use to construct their knowledge. These experiences provide the background knowledge students need to construct their understanding, because the understanding that is constructed depends on the knowledge that stu- dents already possess.
• Connect content to the real world. Situated cognition suggests that the knowledge students construct de- pends on the context in which it is constructed. Real- world contexts make knowledge construction more meaningful by showing students how ideas relate to their lives.
• Promote high levels of social interaction. The learning principle social interaction facilitates learning and so- cial constructivist learning theory both suggest that knowledge is first constructed in a social environ- ment and is later appropriated by individuals.
• Treat verbal explanations skeptically. Students con- struct their own knowledge that makes sense to them. If an explanation doesn’t make sense to a stu- dent, the student will reconstruct and remember the
information in a way that does make sense. This helps us understand why “wisdom can’t be told.” Explain- ing tries to “tell” wisdom, instead of guiding students in the knowledge construction process.
• Promote learning with assessment. Because students construct their own knowledge, the knowledge they construct will vary. Ongoing assessment is the only way to determine if their constructions are valid.
4.2 A language arts teacher wants his students to understand the rules for forming possessive nouns and writes a passage about the school in which he illustrates the rules. Which of the suggestions for classroom practice is best illustrated by his use of his passage about the school to illustrate the grammatical rules?
4.2 “Connect content to the real world” is the suggestion best illustrated. Studying the rules in the context of a written passage is a more nearly real-world task than studying the rules in the context of isolated sentences. Having the students write their own essays using pos- sessives would also be effective.
4.3 Assessments grounded in constructivist views of learning have an essential characteristic. What is this characteristic? Explain.
4.3 Effective assessments provide teachers with insights into students’ thinking. This means that the reasoning students use to arrive at their answers is as important as the answers themselves.
appropriating understanding (p. 190)
The process of individually internalizing understanding after it has first been socially constructed.
assessment (p. 201)
The process of gathering information and making decisions about students’ learning progress.
cognitive apprenticeship (p. 192)
The process of having a less-skilled learner work at the side of an expert to develop cognitive skills.
cognitive constructivism (p. 188)
A view that describes knowledge construction as an individual, internal process.
cognitive learning theories (p. 182)
Theories that explain learning in terms of people’s thinking and the processes involved in acquiring, organizing, and using knowledge.
community of learners (p. 191)
A learning environment in which the teacher and students work together to help everyone learn.
formal assessment (p. 201)
The process of systematically gathering information about learning from all students.
high-quality examples (p. 198)
Examples that include all the information learners need to understand a topic.
informal assessment (p. 201)
The process of gathering incidental information during learning activities.
meaningfulness (p. 183)
The extent to which experiences and information are interconnected with other experiences or information.
misconception (p. 194)
A belief that is inconsistent with evidence or commonly accepted explanations.
principles (laws) [p. 182]
Statements about an area of study that are generally accepted as true.
situated cognition (p. 192)
A theoretical position in social constructivism suggesting that learning depends on, and cannot be separated from, the context in which it occurs.
social constructivism (p. 190)
A view of constructivism suggesting that learners first construct knowledge in a social context and then individually internalize it.
sociocultural theory (p. 191)
A form of social constructivism that emphasizes the social dimensions of learning, but places greater emphasis on the larger cultural contexts in which learning occurs.
transfer (p. 193)
The ability to apply understanding acquired in one context to a different context.

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