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What is Cognitive Learning? – Benefits, Challenges, Use Cases and More

What is Cognitive Learning

Cognitive learning is defined as a change in the knowledge of a student that comes from their learning experiences. A majority of learning that a student acquires in a class is behavioral, which means that it changes the “behavior” of the learner in relation to different questions and concepts. 

Cognitive learning, on the other hand, involves “change in the knowledge” of a student which comes from their understanding of a new topic concept or question. 

In simpler terms, cognitive learning is learning from “seeing“, and behavioral learning comes from “doing“.

Let us try to understand this with the help of an example.

Suppose a teacher taught Newton's Laws of Motion in a class. After the teacher explained the laws and gave a few examples, he solved a few questions based on the discussed formulae. 
Now, he gave a few questions to the students and they used the same formulae to solve them.
In this scenario, the students exhibited a change in their behavior (they were able to solve the questions), after the teacher has discussed the topic. 
However, even if they were able to solve the questions, their mind still lacked the ability to connect the Motion Laws with the ambient nature or daily life. 
So, the teacher took them to the Physics lab and showed them a few experiments demonstrating various laws of motion. 
As the students could actually "see" and perceive things in a real-world scenario, their learning quality was enhanced. They were able to understand the working of laws in a better manner and this learning was well beyond just the problem-solving.

Now, a critical question arises – Which one is better – behavioral learning or cognitive learning?

The answer is – both of them are important for a holistic learning experience. 

Here, we discuss cognitive learning at length and cover its challenges, use cases, and benefits in making learning and teaching a more fulfilling experience.

What Is Cognitive Learning and Why Is It Beneficial?

Jean Piaget, one of the most famous exponents of cognitivism identifies cognitive learning as a lifelong process. 

In cognitive learning, a student learns by seeing, sensing, thoughts and experiences. So, the students also acquire knowledge by interacting with others, such as teachers, students, and people around them. 

A visual representation of cognitive learning is shown below:

Thus, cognitive learning has three key factors:

  • Understanding – Every student must understand why they want to learn or acquire certain information.
  • Memory – It is the relation between the experiences and knowledge acquired by a student.
  • Application – The student (or person) applies the knowledge acquired by them during their lives to develop their skills or tackle the problems they encounter in their lives. 

in simpler words, you can understand cognitivism as the view of the world a child has because of their experiences and understanding of the various things they see, do, and various people they encounter. 

Cognitive learning is beneficial because:

  • It improves comprehension by encouraging the students to learn with a hands-on approach. Thus, they explore the available material and develop a better understanding of what is being taught to them.
  • As the students have a hands-on approach towards learning, their problem-solving skills are developed for diverse applications.
  • Cognitive learning enables the students to learn from previously acquired knowledge and build upon the past learning experiences to solve the current problems. As they apply the learning they already have to learn new concepts, and cognitive learning facilitates long-term learning.
  • Cognitive learning also improves the confidence among the students as they develop a better and deeper understanding of all the topics. This not only improves their class performance but also keeps the students motivated and enthusiastic towards learning.
  • When students realize that there are more engaging and fun ways to help them acquire knowledge that they are going to use for life, they develop a love for learning. Hence, they are always ready to learn something new. 

Now that we have had an overview of cognitive learning let us explore some of its challenges.

Challenges in Cognitive Learning 

While there are many technical and research-specific aspects of cognitive learning challenges, we will focus on the three most challenging aspects. 

These challenges are relevant to the education sector and are shown in the image given below:

Challenge 1: Design and Management of Cognitive Learning Opportunities

Cognitive learning opportunities and techniques require an in-depth understanding of how students perceive, understand, and respond to sensory or visual input. Further, these opportunities might not have the same learning result for all the students equally because the human response to every external stimulus (input) varies from person to person. 

Further, there is a lack of standardized assessment policies and practices to ensure whether the cognitive learning opportunities are well-designed and well-structured enough to produce desired results or not. 

Managing cognitive learning is also a tough process because of the abstract nature of its learning aspects. 

Challenge 2: Curriculum Design and Organization

The next challenge is designing and organizing a proper curriculum for every class and course. While designing cognitive learning activities for young students is easy as they are still learning about the basics, and are more engaged in stories and pictures, this changes when it comes to students reading in higher classes, or colleges. 

Further, cognitive learning alone is not enough for holistic learning in the students, as they need behavioral and adaptive learning as well. They must learn and remember facts and formulas to aid in learning and preparing for the exams.

Hence, the cognitive learning curriculum must be added to the existing curriculum at all levels. This, in turn, is a massive challenge as it involves policymakers and government approval, authorization, and involvement. 

Challenge 3: Rich and Extended Cognitive Discourse to Support Learning 

Cognitive learning would require rich, detailed, and cognitive learning-based lectures as well. Because, if the teachers are not able to convey the concepts and topics keeping cognitive learning in mind, how are the students going to acquire it?

However, this would mean training teachers all over the globe with proper cognitive teaching material that has been developed, designed, and tested, keeping cognitivism in mind. 

Even if we leave global teacher training out of the goal, creating high-quality training material is itself a major challenge. 

So, is it impossible to introduce cognitive learning in the normal curriculum, and what is the benefit of it being so good, when we are not able to get the right training or teaching material for it?

In the coming section, we explore the answer to this and other such questions.

Cognitive Learning: Trends and Use Cases

Soft skills improvement is one of the major upcoming trends in education in 2022. The educators, as well as education stakeholders, are talking about the importance and benefits of building the aptitude around cognitive learning, problem-solving, and management of learning by experience. 

Hence, cognitive learning is going to be one of the major trends in education in 2022.

Further, as remote learning and online teaching are gaining momentum, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that every online interaction brings worthwhile learning with it. 

Actually, when the students are in an online class environment, they talk and interact with the teacher as well as the other students present. Hence, if they have a cognitive learning-based curriculum, they can make the most of their interactive sessions and compensate for the lack of actual lab demonstrations that aid in learning.

Finally, as the world moves towards e-learning and the industry is all set to hit the 325 bn USD mark by 2025, cognitive learning becomes even more important. 

Cognitive learning instills self-efficacy and self-motivation to acquire knowledge and enhance learning among all the students. They don’t require the additional persuasion from the teachers and nagging from their parents. 

Hence, the students will require less monitoring to produce successful learning results in an e-learning environment. 

Next, we discuss some use cases of cognitive learning in the education industry. 

1. Need for a Broader Set of Skills and Knowledge

The students with the best preparation, skills, attitudes and action values are the future change drivers. Apart from bringing a change in the environment and people around them, they are more likely to create, contribute and develop impeccably in various sectors. 

Such a diverse skill set and proper attitude come from a readiness to learn, explore and earn hands-on experience from various activities. Hence, cognitive learning becomes a vital factor in preparing students for the highly competitive and fiercely demanding future. 

Critical thinking, self-regulation, social and emotional skills, creative thinking, collaboration, etc are going to be of paramount importance in the times ahead. Hence, adopting cognitive and meta-cognitive learning practices is a must to prepare students for the future in the best manner. 

2. OECD Learning Framework 2030 

An initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD framework of learning comprises a complex concept. It involves knowledge mobilization along with skills and values a person has acquired in their life by anticipation, reflection, and action. 

In simpler words, the world is getting ready for a detailed and significant change in the education and learning ecosystem where the students will need more than crammed formulas and facts to demonstrate successful learning. 

The OECD learning framework 2030 is a well-defined learning framework that considers a number of factors such as critical thinking, resilience, collaboration, and responsibility as core parts of the school curriculum. 

3. Perspective-Taking and Cognitive Flexibility in Teaching

Cognitive learning will enhance an educator’s understanding of their students’ perspectives and thought processes. Hence, the teachers can easily opt for a teaching approach with cognitive flexibility. 

Such efforts at making cognitive learning holistic, comprehensive, and flexible to accommodate and nurture all types of students, will materialize the benefits this learning approach has to offer. 

4. Early Adoption of Cognitive Teaching 

As humans are the most susceptible to cognitive learning at a young age, many schools are already having cognitive teaching in one or another form. However, education stakeholders, especially parents are looking for ways to keep their children involved in engaging and worthwhile activities, instead of spending time in front of screens. 

They are also looking for ways to raise genius kids that are more responsible and motivated towards learning from a young age. 

Hence, EdTech and e-learning businesses are creating modules for learning, teaching, training, and evaluating students keeping cognitivism in mind. 

One such example is PrepAI, an AI-powered question generator that allows teachers to create different types of questions from content from any source and create bias-free exams

PrepAI - AI Powered Question Generator

Empowered with such tools, all the teachers have to do is choose the right content source and they can introduce cognitive learning from very young age groups. 

Some other valid and futuristic use cases of cognitive learning are:

  • Personalized learning approach
  • Preparing students with a diverse skillset that enables them to take on futuristic job roles
  • Compensating for the lack of tangible demonstrative content in remote teaching
  • Making education and learning more engaging and fulfilling for all students

Cognitive Learning: The Future of Education and Skill Development

As we are moving towards highly competitive job markets where job roles are extremely diverse and workplace responsibilities are shouldered by all the organization members, the time to prepare your students is NOW!

Now is the time you start working on their skills, motivation to learn and acquire knowledge in various forms. This is not the sole responsibility of educators, as all the education stakeholders are involved in preparing a kid for future challenges as a professional. 

Because of its inherent abilities to instill confidence, better learning, and self-regulation among the students, irrespective of the level of education they are at, cognitive learning is just the right approach. 

While the large-scale adoption and integration of cognitive learning in the curriculum are still a few years ahead in the future, taking the first steps towards it now, is going to bring you a long way!

To embark upon your journey towards cognitive learning and to get the right consultation for starting, please get in touch with our team today!