What is Cognitive Learning?

By its very definition, cognitive learning is the art of learning how to learn. According to Oxford Learning, cognitive learning is “the function based on how a person processes and reasons information”.  
Cognitive learning occurs consciously and unconsciously and revolves around many different factors including memory retention, thinking skills, problem solving skills and the understanding of new material or information.  Cognitive learning employs various strategies and techniques which engage students in their learning process, with the ultimate aim that the learning, processing and remembering of new information become easier and easier.
In the “olden days” children were often taught by rote, remembering and managing information “parrot fashion”.  Cognitive learning however focuses on more meaningful learning using various techniques including:
  • Ensuring that pupils can fully justify their understanding;
  • Strengthening understanding by effective discussion;
  • Employing learning strategies to improve pupils’ knowledge and understanding, and using techniques to recall the newly learned information;
  • Encouraging pupils to reflect on their own personal learning experience.
It can be argued that employing cognitive learning skills “good learners” are separated from “average learners” as those pupils not learning using cognitive skills are more likely to fall behind because they cannot manage or process the newly learned information.
An ambassador for cognitive learning is Mr David Didau.  David is highly regarded amongst his peers and fellow educational professionals and is the author of (amongst other books) “What if everything you knew about education was wrong?”.  One could be forgiven for thinking, from the title of this book, that it would be a tome focussing on all things negative, without giving anything positive in return.  On the contrary, David expands on his research and findings and provides a much needed route towards creating a positive, powerful and convincing approach to learning.
David ascertains that by employing the strategies of cognitive learning, pupils will not merely memorize new information, but instead they will learn effectively and this will ensure that the concepts being taught are not only fully understood, but will be able to be recalled more easily when required.
As mentioned earlier, David is highly regarded in his field and in 2011 he began to write a blog The Learning Spy which has since won numerous awards.  Indeed his blog has been widely recognised as one of the most influential educational blogs in the United Kingdom and in February 2017 recorded 2.5 million visitors to the site.