Teacher's Question of the Week
Q. What are some other ways to use the Cognitive Map to improve student learning?
A. In the Question of the Week series, we have been looking at Feuerstein's Cognitive Map (listed below for reference). This answer will focus upon abstraction, which Feuerstein defines as the "distance between mental act and object or event on which it operates, ranging from objects perceived by the senses to hypothetical propositions".
The basic Learning Model above shows the visual and auditory pathways bringing perceptual information to the brain. These data are then translated into forms of information that are experienced as visual or verbal, and much else (visual is often associated with kinesthetic, or large motor, or tactile, small motor). These become integrated into working memory, and if significant, long term memory. Learning may become more abstract as the mind interprets information conceptually, either using language or visual-spatial reasoning. Ultimately learners become more abstract in their thinking and may reach levels of ideation, or idea generation.
Learners translate what they have thought of into concrete forms, often through a combination of written language, drawing, oral speech or kinesthetic bodily movements. If a student's thought processes function only when concrete objects are used as a basis, then Piaget would probably advise that such a learner has not left the "concrete operations" stage. As a student mentally represents knowledge as a concept, hypothetical proposition ("what if"), or abstract idea, she has entered the realm of abstraction.
The purpose of the diagram, therefore, is to illustrate how students can approach abstract thought from either a largely auditory-language or visual-kinesthetic orientation. It is also to show how processing takes place from concrete to abstract and back again to concrete through expression (i.e., from sensory perceptual data, through recognition, storage and elaboration, and then again through verbal, visual or bodily expression.)
As teachers, it would be unusual to have all your students processing information in the same way, and it would be very rare to find they all thought at the same level of concreteness or abstraction. Most teachers deal with this diversity by planning for a variety of learning approaches and levels of thought. Teachers also have a way of moving students into new realms by expanding their thinking abilities.
By questioning and reframing student responses, teachers naturally and subtlely move students from a concrete experience to a more abstract level. Teachers demonstrate concept formation by "thinking aloud" with content material, showing and guiding students by example. By asking for specific examples and illustrations, teachers move students from an abstract to a more concrete level.
We will take up conceptual thinking and critical thinking in a later entry in this series which might inspire some ideas about how to help students become more abstract in their thinking, and may help some of us who've gone through graduate school to think more concretely.
(Source: "Learning Model", under "Cognitive Methods" by G. Lewin, Lesson 4, Riverside College's online course for teachers.)
The Learning Cycle
following learning cycle integrates areas mentioned both in Bloom's (and others')
taxonomies and in the field of cognitive processing. It begins with holding
concentrated attention, the task fundamental to all learning, and moves through
comprehension, conceptualization and practical application, which, as a whole,
forms a cycle of learning, as questions lead to more questions, and knowledge
involves self-reference and self-knowledge.
The assumption is that the more we integrate the ways to develop the cognitive processes into lesson plans, the more we will assist students in developing and refining those processes which are prerequisites to many academic tasks, thus contributing to student success. The ways suggested below are meant as components to be included in teacher-custom-designed lessons, not as substitutes for the teacher's lesson.
- followed by - Ways to further develop that specific process
Concentrated Attention: Reflection; active listening; reading; journals; computer-assisted instruction; drawing; making oneself responsible for presenting information to others or accountable in some important way
Paraphrasing and summarizing information from lectures, readings, discussions,
etc.; understanding vocabulary; apprehending information from effort (SQ5R:
Survey, Question, Read, Record, Recite, Review and Reflect); annotating
Information: Categorizing; concept formation; a structured notetaking
method (i.e., the Cornell 6-R method: Record,Reduce, Recite, Reflect, Review,
Recapitulate); outlining chapters; making a table of contents; creating diagrams
and/or mnemonigrams (pictures integrating important key concepts from notes
and lectures to use in preparation for tests)
Noting similarities and differences; culling out essentials from particulars;
conceptual analysis (levels from abstract to concrete); concept diagram; linguistic
analysis using criteria from class; visual mapping and/or outlining; problem
analysis; task analysis (applied to any type of lesson, text structure, system
or process); analyzing data in light of rules, formulae, hypotheses or predictions;
analyzing cases in light of chosen principles
Putting whole together; identifying patterns and relationships; devising graphic
organizers illustratingintegrated network of ideas; developing theories; thinking
through problem and devising possible alternative solutions; creating a new
model, product or method
Evaluation: Coming to conclusions about data, patterns and interpreting
ideas using criteria or logic of discipline; syllogistic and other structured
reasoning; elements of reasoning; justifying conclusions with reasons; selecting
best solution to problem using criteria; evaluating reasoning
Imagining, thinking through, and planning, how to use or test ideas, theories,
solutions in life and doing so; considering implications of reasoned plan;
using feedback and lessons gained from trying to apply ideas in life; reflection
Self-Evaluation: Being aware of self as learner (how one learns, strengths,
limitations, and style), the requirements of the setting or given task, and
choosing a strategy to fulfill task; monitoring how it works and making adjustments;
devising executive strategies; writing about one's goals and how one progresses
toward actualizing goals in a journal; devising checklists tailored to one's
situation and learning profile; monitoring own progress by keeping a log of
grades, points, feedback from teachers, checklists, inventories, quizzes,
tests, and any other helpful information to use as feedback for self-assessment;
designing questions to ask of teachers, tutors and mentors to gain feedback
Seeing self as a lifelong learner capable of selecting and enacting a self-chosen
discipline; journal keeping in some form to record lessons and foster assimilation
Background Information: What is the Cognitive Map?
The cognitive map provides an analytical tool by which to locate specific points of difficulty in a lesson for the ultimate purpose of drawing out students potentials. By pinpointing possible causes of student error, you can give precise feedback to students or make subtle adjustments in the lesson to increase accessibility.
The seven parameters include the following:
1. Content: subject matter.
Kinds of operations involved: eg., classification, algorithmic problem
solving, syllogistic, analogical, or inferential reasoning, etc. (the abilities
and skills activated by your lesson)
Modality or the language of instruction, presentation or
information processing: eg., visual, graphic, numerical, symbolic, verbal,
auditory, sign language, kinesthetic, tactile, etc.
Phase of the mental act: reception, elaboration, expression.
Level of complexity: number, quality, & degree of novelty of units.
Level of abstraction: distance between mental act & object or event
on which it operates, ranging from objects perceived by the senses to hypothetical
Level of efficiency: rapidity/precision (often confused with capacity).
will explore some other ways to use Feuerstein's Cognitive Map in the Question
of the Week series.
Source: Reuven Feuersteins Learning Potential Assessment Device. (Used with permission.)