Delve Institute of Learning Research

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What is Cognitive Science?

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Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of the mind and its processes. It draws on research from psychology, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy, computer science, and anthropology to understand how humans think, learn, perceive, and act.

Cognitive science involves research from many fields:

  • linguistics,
  • psychology,
  • neuroscience,
  • philosophy,
  • computer science / artificial intelligence,
  • and anthropology.

Cognitive Science Research

It examines the nature, the tasks, and the functions of cognition (in a broad sense). Cognitive scientists study intelligence and behavior, with a focus on how nervous systems represent, process, and transform information.

Mental faculties of concern to cognitive scientists include language, perception, memory, attention, reasoning, and emotion; to understand these faculties, cognitive scientists borrow from fields such as linguistics, psychology, artificial intelligence, philosophy, neuroscience, and anthropology.

Applied to Teaching

Using prior knowledge to scaffold learning. Cognitive science research has shown that learners are more likely to learn new information if it is connected to their existing knowledge. Teachers can use this knowledge to scaffold learning by providing learners with opportunities to activate their prior knowledge, relate new information to their existing knowledge, and build new knowledge on top of their existing knowledge.

Providing opportunities for active learning. Cognitive science research has shown that learners learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. Teachers can provide opportunities for active learning by using hands-on activities, problem-solving, and collaboration.

Using spaced repetition and retrieval practice. Cognitive science research has shown that learners retain information better if they are given opportunities to review it spaced out over time. Teachers can use spaced repetition and retrieval practice by providing learners with opportunities to review new information at regular intervals and to test their understanding of the information.

Using multimedia and interactive learning materials. Cognitive science research has shown that learners can learn more effectively from multimedia and interactive learning materials. Teachers can use multimedia and interactive learning materials to provide learners with engaging and motivating learning experiences.

Creating a supportive and collaborative learning environment. Cognitive science research has shown that learners learn best in a supportive and collaborative environment. Teachers can create a supportive and collaborative learning environment by encouraging students to help each other learn, to provide each other with feedback, and to celebrate each other’s successes.

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