Cognitive Education

What is Cognitive Education?

Cognitive Education (CE) is the name given to education that provides explicit cognitive and metacognitive instruction. CE aims to enhance the thinking processes of all learners by developing and mediating concepts, skills and strategies for ‘learning how to learn’.

It is more comprehensive and systematic than the tips about how to learn that teachers (or parents) provide from time to time. Learners learn how their minds work and how to make them work more efficiently.  They also acquire a language that enables them to talk about their thinking and they then learn how to transfer these concepts and strategies to other contexts i.e. their subject/curriculum areas and their personal and social lives. In developing learners as autonomous thinkers and lifelong learners they will be prepared to take on the challenges that confront them throughout their lives.

According to Art Costa cognitive education involves teaching FOR, OF and ABOUT thinking (Anderson, 2010):

  • Teaching FOR thinking involves the creation of school-wide and classroom conditions that support thinking development.
  • Teaching OF Thinking focuses on the explicit teaching and modeling of thinking skills/strategies and dispositions to learners.
  • Teaching ABOUT thinking helps learners to become aware of their own and others’ thinking processes (meta-cognitive processes).

What is Cognition?

Cognition is a confusing concept but it seems most helpful to think of cognition as a broad concept that includes all forms of human thinking and it also refers to all the processes of the mind involved in thinking.

Some of the basic cognitive processes are attention, perception and memory.  These need to be in place as a foundation for higher order thinking skills or executive functions (such as metacognition).  Some of the various dimensions of thinking are logical and systematic thinking, critical and analytical thinking, dialogical thinking, lateral, divergent and convergent thinking, hypothesizing, problem solving and others. Effective thinking is not a cold mechanistic process and is influenced by feelings, dispositions/attitudes and motivation.

What is Metacognition?

Metacognition simply means, ‘Thinking about thinking’ and using information and strategies to think better and solve problems.

Metacognition has been described as the self-correcting nature of thinking. It is the mental process of being aware of monitoring, supervising, organizing and making executive decisions about one’s own thinking process. It also depends, in part, on a belief in one’s abilities to get smarter or on the beliefs of others, like teachers and parents, in one’s abilities (Crowl et al.1997).