The wise application of cognitivism principles in the design of training materials results in more effective learning for both children and adults. In any kind of learning environment, the needs of the learners need to be taken into consideration so that optimal absorption and understanding of new information can be ensured. In a nutshell, cognitivism principles have to do with optimizing the way adult learners are able to think about, understand, process, and integrate new information to put what they already know to good use.
Cognitivism Principle #1: Learning Should Be More Focused and Purposeful
Adults learn more effectively when they know why they are learning something in the first place. They need to understand how the concepts and ideas that they are going to learn can be applied to their own lives. At the onset, the why is often more important than the how. Therefore, clear and specific purpose of all training materials has to be stated at the beginning. Furthermore, the identified purpose should relate to the situations and challenges that the participants are facing. In addition, theories presented in any training course should include practical examples to show their relevance. For instance, a technical course for a new project management tool conducted at a small office needs to explicitly present how this efficiency and productivity program that was originally intended for a larger organization applies to a smaller corporate setting. The benefits of efficiency and productivity that result from this program should be translated into terms that corporate employees can easily relate to.
Cognitivism Principle #2: Learning Should be Self-Directed
The cognitivism theory espouses that adults are primed for learning when they have established a clear goal or objective for themselves. Self-directed learning can be achieved by asking learners what they want to learn and what expectations they have for the course. Instructional designers should provide learners with all the necessary tools to focus their efforts and facilitate learning. These should allow the learners to direct their learning based on their unique needs and pace. For instance, a general technical course on the use of MS Excel would have different uses for learners of different backgrounds. An accountant would require more information on functions related to bookkeeping, while a sales manager would need functions for trending, monitoring, and data analysis. The course should point these learners to where they can get the specialized information needed to be successful.
Cognitivism Principle #3: Learning Should Come from Discovery and Analysis
The design of the eLearning modules should promote the discovery of new information through inquiry. The right questions should be posed to stimulate critical thinking and drive the need to find new knowledge. Adults are usually more receptive towards problem-centered learning that gives them an idea of how to overcome challenges swiftly and effectively. The modules should tap into the learners’ cognitive information processing by actively involving them in the discovery and analysis of new knowledge. Among the activities that apply this cognitivism principle to eLearning are role plays and case studies. Adult learners should be given the chance to collaborate with each other and share insights as well as to bounce off their own ideas and opinions for didactic discussion. In the case of a Time Management course, for example, participants can be divided into small groups and asked to present a handful of solutions to a single problem. They may also be asked to analyze how a single solution could be applied to two different scenarios.
Cognitivism and Real Learning
Any course or module will not be of value if it does not result in real learning. The only way to ensure its success is to understand how the human mind receives and processes information more effectively. The best way to do this is to keep the principles of cognitivism in mind and apply them in the design of the training solution.
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