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Students in higher education are faced with rapidly changing societal conditions. As the nature and structure of the workplace and the family have changed, the specific knowledge and skills people need for the future have become less predictable. Teachers can address these changing conditions by applying cognitive theory to learning and instructional delivery. Cognitive theory in this context implies that learning is a process of knowledge construction rather than knowledge absorption and storage. As applied to instruction, this approach should not focus on individual mental activity in isolation from the social and physical context, but recognize that skilled practical thinking incorporates features of the task environment (e.g., people, things, information) into the problem-solving system. Technical college students, who are generally older and who come to college with various experiential and environmental contexts, benefit from instructional designs which consider such contextual relationships. Of three models of instruction (i.e., instruction as transportation of knowledge, as application of algorithms, and as transfer of responsibility), the third approach is supported by cognitive theory. When instruction is viewed as a transfer of responsibility, the learner is led to assume independent responsibility for learning, and knowledge is constructed by learners using what they already know and have experienced. This model of instruction is effective with rapidly changing societal conditions since it supports the development of complex cognitive processes. (Contains 14 references.) (PAA)

Descriptors: Behaviorism, Cognitive Processes, Cognitive Psychology, Curriculum Development, Educational Change, Educational Theories, Individual Development, Learning Theories, Models, Nontraditional Students, Role of Education, Teaching Methods, Technical Institutes, Two Year Colleges, Vocational Education

Autor: Heckman, Richard T.


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