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Cognitive education is a teaching method that focuses on stimulating and developing students’ cognitive abilities, which, in turn, will improve their learning capacity. This method views cognitive skills holistically and includes social, emotional, and imaginative aspects, instead of just looking at intelligence. “Thinking schools” that apply this educational method rely heavily on Dr. Reuven Feuerstein’s “Instrumental Enrichment Program,” developed from his theory of Structural Cognitive Modifiability.
One of the main principles behind cognitive education is “learning to learn.” A student’s ability to learn does not just rely on his DNA and inherited traits, but also depends on the environment. Unlike conventional teaching methods that quantify a student’s intelligence by test scores, this newer teaching method looks beyond scores and asks why scores are either high or low. In this way, cognitive education can develop learning techniques that can help students maximize their learning experiences.
For a child to “learn how to learn,” Dr. Feuerstein proposed a method called Mediated Learning Experience. Simply put, another person—usually in the form of a mentor—acts as the “mediator,” from whom a student will learn many skills to improve his learning. After being equipped, students can now directly learn from their environments, but still hold a strong relationship with their mentors.
One technique that cognitive education can teach students is mind-mapping. This technique can train a student to explore certain subject matters in unlimited ways by asking, “What do you think of when you hear the word… ?” The student can then sketch a map or a web using any figures and words that he can associate with the word. This will help him remember what the lesson is about while creating new ideas for himself. Mind maps are useful not just for students but also for any groups of people in brainstorming sessions.
The approach of cognitive education also teaches the “creation of insight.” This is especially helpful in subjects that require heavy memorization. Instead of just presenting, for example, a list of words a student should understand and spell correctly, cognitive educators can coach students to break down the words, associate them with real-life examples, and find patterns that will help them remember the correct spelling. These techniques will not only help a student memorize the words, but also teach him how to use them long after the lesson is finished. With these strategies, cognitive education answers the question of “how to learn,” instead of the traditional “what to learn.” Approaching the learning process this way can help a student be more equipped for the world outside the classroom walls.
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