Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cognitivism Correlation

This week, I took a closer look at the cognitivist approach to learning.  This model treats the brain much like a filing system in a computer where information is received, understood, stored, and later is used (Lever-Duffy & McDonald, 2008).  The emphasis here is the mental processes are found inward and are unique to the learner, much like you don't see much behind a computer "thinking" apart from a blinking hard drive light.  If you take the computer analogy another step, limitless applications are at your disposal for data manipulation, much like the workings of the human mind.

Now, if you consider the brain to be like a computer, it follows to find a direct correlation between cognitive theories and using tools such as graphic organizers, concept maps, spreadsheets, and virtual tours to enhance the learning experience.  Each tool can help students better sort, file, and organize their thoughts to make a deeper connection so the information is easier to retrieve later when it is needed.  Concept maps or "webs" are often used at the elementary level to help students organize their thoughts before writing.  Graphic organizers are helpful to sort information into necessary groups, so the brain can connect the information to similar ideas or concepts for storage.  Virtual field trips and simulations can help make a visual connection for students when they can't visit the actual place themselves.  I personally use a virtual tour for my art class to visit the paleolithic cave Lascaux in France, which is now off-limits to all but a few for preservation (not like we could actually get a field trip to France, but one can always hope!)

Aujuolat, N. (N.D.) Lascaux a visit to the cave. Retrieved from
Mayer, R. (N.D.) Cognitive theory of multimedia learning. Retrieved from
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from


  1. Alisha,
    I have visited a website or two on the paleolithic cave Lascaux in France and they were almost like really being there. Using a resource such as this would really make cave painting come alive for a student. It almost creates a multisensory experience for the learner (something that we understand that helps with retention of knowledge). Great resource!

    1. Thank you! The caves are breathtaking are they not? It's so amazing to me that they have been hidden for so long, and have been preserved so well!

  2. Alisha,
    As an art and music teacher, what type of organizational tools do you use with your students? As part of my history lesson, I had to teach a small portion of realism (Coubert and Millet) and the German school of music (Liszt & Wagner). What I did was "Google image search" for paintings by Coubert and Millet so the students could see how they captured what they saw "Stonebreakers" and "the Gleaners", et al. Then I showed them YouTube videos for Liszt and Wagner. Do you have any additional suggestions on how to get the art and music of an era across to a group of 12th graders?
    Thank You,

    1. I may not be of much help to you in the art history area - it's not a hot topic for elementary students. Courbet, Millet, and the rest of the realism movement are boring to my students. When I teach an art period or movement, I stay pretty vague, showing many works for comparison, and only using a few artist's names - we study mostly what the work LOOKS like and WHY the artist chooses that style. With Realism, I would focus on how the artists tended to show political ideology by showing the status of the poor, or the working conditions of peasants. Then I would probably have students current events to choose something they would like to draw attention to through artwork (the Kony 2012 campaign is an excellent example) and have them create something that looks realistic to try to get attention to the topic they chose.

      As for the German school do you mean specifically the "New German School of Music" which is pretty limited, or more broadly German composers where you can access the work of the masters for your lesson as well?

  3. I think your field trip to the Lascaux cave is a phenomenal idea, especially since few people can actually go there now. This type of experience for students would be one that lasts in their memories, as Dr. Orey talked about eposodic long-term memory. Students would remember a burst of visual cave art such as this, all in the context of learning about art. Awesome idea. Thanks so much for your post.

    Scott Embrock

    1. Thank you so much! I do try to create memorable experiences for my students. I often ask people what they remember from their elementary art and music days and try to use that information in my own classroom. Sometimes, it's funny what people remember!

  4. Alisha,
    I agree with your analogy between the brain and a computer. Students have the task of sorting, filing, and organizing information as you would with a computer. In order for a computer to perform appropriately, it must be programmed. That part is our job as educators and it cannot be taken lightly. It is imperative that we implement the correct tools (programming) neccessary for students to be successful. The tools that you described are essential to students being successful.
    Great post!