Cognitive Learning Theory is an important concept that is used in corporate training. The theory explains how we as humans process information when we learn. For instance, classroom-based teaching practice is something that everyone has experienced from their earliest learning days. The Teacher stood in front of a board, explaining & teaching the concerned topic. A student’s success in the said topic could then be determined by remembering what was taught then.
This teacher classroom-based learning is associated with Behaviourist Learning Theory. Where the students are the passive participants, and the teacher is the active participant.
Defining Cognitive Learning Theory
Cognitive Learning Theory, in contrast to the Behaviourist Learning Theory, suggests that the learner is an active participant. They enter the learning program with their own skillset, memories, & information they’ve obtained previously when learning something new, process & create their own understanding of a topic based on their past knowledge & experience.
Types of Cognitive Learning Strategies
To get a better understanding of Cognitive Learning Theory, Let us look at four strategies formulated by psychologists who structured the concept of cognitive learning. We will also discuss how these strategies can be used in corporate learning.
Named after the psychologist Benjamin Bloom, The strategy states six different levels of cognitive learning. With the levels having a hierarchy. At the basic level, it explains the important abilities necessary to recall previously taught information. And at the highest level, it describes a learner’s ability to analyze & evaluate the information that has been taught.
The six levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy are listed as below:
- Remember: Being able to recall information and describe what has been taught.
- Understand: Interpret the information learned to summarize or present or explain it.
- Apply: Using the information learned to apply it to solve a task or a related problem
- Analyze: Comparing, deconstructing, organizing the connections between various aspects of the information taught.
- Evaluate: Critique & judge the information so as to select the best course of action
- Create: Generate new ideas or perceptions, producing, designing, or inventing new things
When designing & training employees in an organization, Learning & Development Managers should contemplate the degree of cognitive learning, they need to achieve from a given course.
- For instance, training new employees for customer support, remembering, understanding & applying is sufficient enough for them
- For training team leaders & senior managers however, the level of cognitive learning must be deeper. Important decisions will require analysis, evaluation & creating skills.
Learning through Discovery
Developed by Jerome Bruner, this strategy suggests that active learner involvement is a core aspect of Cognitive Learning Theory. Bruner explains that instead of just feeding information to the learner, the learner should discover the information themselves.
Bruner believed that ensuring learners had a deep level understanding of the information more important than just acquiring the information. Learners frequently review previous material even as new information is being introduced. This ensures that the information is being completely understood.
In corporate training, Bruner’s version of Cognitive Learning Theory can be applied in the following ways:
- Giving learners to complete relevant tasks to strengthen learning. For example, role-playing scenarios.
- Making participants solve real-world issues & challenges your organization is facing.
Every individual has a relative approach to learning. When we are learning, we begin with a basic set of knowledge and move ahead from that point.
Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget, a pioneer of Cognitive Learning Theory favoured a learner-centred approach to training. He stated that the three main functions, which are accommodation, assimilation & equilibration are all very crucial to learning.
- Accommodation: How we modify already known information to take the new information into consideration.
- Assimilation: How we sort and arrange the new information alongside what we have already learnt.
- Equilibration: Balancing between what we are learning & what we already know.
According to Piaget, learning is the process of relating new information to what we already learned & know. To facilitate this process, the trainer should create a safe and conducive environment for learning.
The environment should develop the learner’s curiosity & encourage their insights. It is then important for L&D managers to the structure a course accordingly.
Create Meaningful Experiences
David Ausbel, an American psychologist, suggested that for learning to be fruitful & permanent, it has to be meaningful. He clearly differentiated between rote learning & meaningful learning.
Rote learning is where information is learned off by heart with no effort to provide its relevance to the learner to evaluate its value. David believed that reliable information material, which fit what the learner already knew, was meaningful &, therefore, effective.
When trainers make an effort to explain why a topic is meaningful for the participant, there is a higher chance of the information being stored in the brain.
Advance organizers is an effective method. It suggests that trainers should explain some introductory information or some relevant background knowledge before diving into a complex subject. It makes it easier for the learners to sort and save the information in their brains.
For L&D Managers, this implies that:
- New information taught should have relevance to what was previously taught.
- New material should ideally be prefaced with introductory or background information
- Emphasis must be placed on how meaningful each element of the session is to the job or work your learner is preparing for.
Applying Cognitive Learning Theory to Your Organization
When creating courses for your training programs, consider the fact that learners relate to information in different ways. You can ensure that each participant succeeds by:
- Making sure your course content is sequenced.
- Review information that you’ve already covered.
- Letting learners become active participants in their training process.
- Emphasize why the information is important & relevant.
Kloudlearn’s LMS platform provides L&D managers with a powerful tool to deliver impactful training to their employees. Create your own courses with the inclusion of Cognitive Learning Theory Principals to ensure that leaners have a meaningful & relevant training experience.