Cognitive Education – Shifting The Mindset Around Learning?

Cognitive Education – Shifting The Mindset Around Learning?

By Deborah Behrens, Specialist Educator, I.E. Mediator at Bellavista School.

Cognitive Education is about using fundamental thinking skills to develop critical thinking. Why is it necessary to change the way we think about learning? To learn is to acquire new information that will be used effectively in the future. Today’s learners need to be future proofed by ensuring that they are aware of thinking strategies to make sense of the world around them.

Being aware of what one is thinking is about being mindful – mindful of what one thinks, how one thinks and why one thinks. Simply put, cognitive education is thinking about your thinking.

Thinking independently, logically and efficiently requires reflection and self-awareness. This is critical thinking, an essential element in shifting the mindset of teachers and learners in cognitive education.

In the 21st Century, information of every kind is accessible instantaneously. New knowledge is documented all the time. It is important for learners to discern fact from fiction. The recent events in Eastern Europe reflecting the mania of fake news is an example of this. Making sense of the ever-evolving social order and information overload requires our children to have inquiring minds to organise their thoughts effectively.

Cognitive Education builds cognitive strategies to improve fundamental thinking functions. When a learner thinks independently, the learner questions and analyses new information with confidence. The mental move for educators, is to change from the role of instructor to that of   mediator – someone who guides the learner through the educational experience. When this occurs, the learner makes relevant meaning of new knowledge using these newfound strategies that are applicable to everyday experiences.

The Instrumental Enrichment Programme that devised these tools was created by an educator and a psychologist in the mid 1900s.  Reuven Feuerstein was a man ahead of his time. He believed in the concept of neuroplasticity long before it was proven in the MRI’s that are used today. In the 1950’s he worked with child survivors of the Holocaust who required IQ tests to determine the correct school placements. These test results found most of these children to be low functioning, and for Feuerstein this made no sense. The children had gone through the severe trauma of concentration camps in World War 2 and displacement thereafter. Feuerstein used these tests in a different way by doing an intervention which he called Mediation.  During testing, he looked at these children’s potential to learn rather than their static scores. The results were extraordinary. From these findings, Feuerstein developed the theories of Structural Cognitive Modifiability, Mediated Learning Experience and Dynamic Assessment.

The Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment program is based on the belief that brain modifiability is possible at all stages of life and that everyone can learn. If a learner experiences difficulties it is because the skills have not been acquired yet.

Mediators make explicit use of the Cognitive Functions: Input, Elaboration and Output to encourage curiosity and exploration of the world around them. Effective mediation happens when the learner thinks about the tools needed for the thinking process. Explicit Instrumental Enrichment vocabulary is used in this mediation. These thinking tools are embedded in the mindset of the mediator as they work alongside the learner.

Mediators make use of every opportunity to integrate the I.E skills into their learning areas. This creates a mentality that drives action and allows the learner to think critically in a dynamic world.

Sign up for the Bellavista SHARE 2022 Online Conference. Teaching our children to be critical, independent thinkers is an essential component of educating for the future. Cognitive education is key to securing a better future for our youth. Join the Bellavista SHARE team as they explore the power of cognitive education with international and local experts from May to June 2022. The conference will run for five consecutive weeks, beginning on Wednesday 11 May 2022, and ending on Wednesday 8 June 2022. Each week a 1-hour live webinar will be held with a specific expert exploring their topic of interest.

Attendees can book for the full line-up, or individual webinars. Visit: 

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