Features Of Cognitive Techniques

1. Content:

Teach tacit, heuristic knowledge as well as textbook knowledge.

Domain knowledge is the conceptual, factual, and procedural knowledge typically found in textbooks and other instructional materials. This knowledge is important, but often is insufficient to enable students to approach and solve problems independently.

Heuristic strategies are “tricks of the trade” or “rules of thumb” that often help narrow solution paths. Experts usually pick up heuristic knowledge indirectly through repeated problem-solving practice; slower learners usually fail to acquire this subtle knowledge and never develop competence. There is evidence to believe, however, that at least some heuristic knowledge can be made explicit and represented in a teachable form.

2. Situated learning

Teach knowledge and skills in contexts that reflect the way the knowledge will be useful in real life.Brown, Collins, and Duguid (1989) argue for placing all instruction within “authentic” contexts that mirror real- life problem-solving situations. Collins (1991) is less forceful, moving away from real-life requirements and toward problem-solving situations: For teaching math skills, situated learning could encompass settings “ranging from running a bank or shopping in a grocery store to inventing new theorems or finding new proofs. That is,. situated learning can incorporate situations from everyday life to the most theoretical endeavors.”

3. Modeling and explaining

Show how a process unfolds and tell reasons why it happens that way.

Collins (1991) cites two kinds of modeling: modeling of processes observed in the world and modeling of expert performance, including covert cognitive processes. Computers can be used to aid in the modeling of these processes. Collins stresses the importance of integrating: both the demonstration and the explanation during instruction. Learners need access to explanations as they observé details of the modeled performance. Computers are particularly good at modeling covert processes that otherwise would be difficult to observe.

4. Coaching

Observe students as they try to complete tasks and provide hints and helps when needed.Intelligent tutoring systems sometimes embody sophisticated coaching systems that model the learner’s progress and provide hints and support as practice activities increase in difficulty.

5. Articulation

Have students think about their actions and give reasons for their decisions and strategies, thus making their tacit knowledge more explicit.Think-aloud protocols are one example of articulation (Hayes & Flower, 1980; Smith & Wedman, 1988). Collins (1991) cites the benefits of added insight and the ability to compare knowledge across contexts. As learners’ tacit knowledge is brought to light, that knowledge can be recruited to solve other problems.

6. Reflection

Have students look back over their efforts to complete a task and analyze their own performance.Reflection is like articulation, except it is pointed backwards to past tasks. Analyzing past performance efforts can also involve elements of strategic goal-setting and intentional learning.

7. Exploration

Encourage students to try out different strategies and hypotheses and observe their effects.Collins (1991) claims that through exploration, students learn how to set achievable goals and to manage the pursuit of those goals. They learn to set and try out hypotheses, and to seek knowledge independently. Real- world exploration is always an attractive option; however, constraints of cost, time, and safety sometimes prohibit instruction in realistic settings. Simulations are one way to allow exploration; hypertext structures are another.

8. Sequence

Present instruction in an ordering from simple to complex, with increasing diversity, and global before local skills.

Increasing complexity. Collins et al. (1989) point to two methods for helping learners deal with increasing complexity. First, instruction should take steps to control the complexity of assigned tasks. They cite Lave’s study of tailoring apprenticeships: apprentices first learn to sew drawers, which have straight lines, few pieces of material, and no special features like zippers or pockets. They progress to more complex garments over a period of time. The second method for controlling complexity is through scaffolding, for example, group or teacher support for individual problem solving

Increasing diversity refers to the variety in examples and practice contexts.

Global before local skills refers to helping learners acquire a mental model of the problem space at very early stages of learning. Even though learners are not engaged in full problem solving, through modeling and helping on parts of the task (scaffolding), they can understand the goals of the activity and the way various strategies relate to the problem’s solution. Once they have a clear “conceptual map” of the activity, they can proceed to developing specific skills.

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