Instrumental Enrichment 2022

Cognitive Education – How do we shift cognition in children?

Cognitive Education – How do we shift cognition in children?

By Samantha Jacquet, Remedial Teacher at Bellavista School

Cognitive Education is inspired by the work of Professor Reuven Feuerstein. Feuerstein was one of the first people to believe that the brain had the ability to modify, change, and adapt in both structure and function throughout life, in response to experiences. Through hypothesising and testing, he developed the theories of Structural Cognitive Modifiability, Mediated Learning Experience and Dynamic Assessment – which look at children’s potential to learn rather than their static scores.

Structural Cognitive Modifiability holds the belief that all people irrespective of their age or limitations can be modified in the structure of their brains and that new neural pathways can be created. This challenges the view that a person reaches a plateau in their learning, and rather, opens the possibility and belief that structural change can happen at any stage of life. Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) is the mechanism to facilitate these changes.

Mediated Learning Experience is different to a direct learning approach. It is an interactional approach whereby the mediator puts themselves between the child and stimuli. They mediate to the child the world around them by framing, selecting, focusing, guiding, questioning, and making connections. They guide and lead the child to explore their thinking, solve problems, plan, consider different avenues, draw conclusions, organise and set goals. Mediated Learning Experience focuses on the human-environment interaction. This interaction between the stimulus, the child and the response, is a natural event and is why neuroplasticity takes place. Problems and difficulties occur when there is a failure of that mediation.

The Mediation process can be offered in three possible places in learning:

  1. Anticipatory Mediation: where the mediator prepares the child for a task. It is an orientation to the task, especially if the task is new or the child has no previous experience and knowledge of the task.
  2. Pre-response mediation helps the child to organise, analyse and develop approaches and strategies to work on a task successfully. This requires the mediator to work on a structure so that the child can use that to formulate a response.
  3. Post-response mediation occurs after the response has been made and to give feedback to the child. The mediator builds correct responses or enhances cognitive structures by correcting errors, addressing hesitations, and discussing alternative possibilities.

There are 12 parameters that are important to the Mediated Learning Experience, the first three are essential.

The first parameter is Intentionality and Reciprocity. This describes the HOW. How do we as teachers and mediators ensure that learning will be interesting and motivating? How do we ensure that those learning participate, ask questions, and engage in meaningful discussions? Intentionality and Reciprocity refer to a mediator’s deliberate efforts to change a child’s awareness, perception, processing, or reaction. Intentionality alone is inadequate without reciprocity. Reciprocity is defined when the child responds vocally, verbally, or nonverbally to the mediator’s behaviour.

The second parameter is Meaning. This refers to the WHY. This indicates the motive of why this learning is taking place and the purpose of this learning. Does it hold meaning for the child? Does the child understand why they are learning this and how it may help them? Is it motivating and interesting?  How can we teach or mediate so that the child will look for meaning in other things? The meaning of why we are doing a task holds enormous value as it will assist in future learning and bridging of tasks and knowledge.

The third parameter is Transcendence. This refers to seeing beyond the here and now. It is about bridging the skills learnt into other situations and circumstances. Cognitive Education is not just about what we learn in the classroom or in therapy, but it is about teaching strategies, rules and principles to generalise and transfer them into other situations.

Without any one of these parameters, successful mediated learning cannot be achieved.

Feuerstein focuses on the development of Cognitive functions in MLE. Cognitive functions are prerequisites for learning to take place and a number of these conditions combine to achieve a mental operation. They are the source of cognitive impairment which means they are also the focus of intervention. They are universal, appear early and are situation dependent. Cognitive functions can be deficient, absent, underdeveloped, poorly developed, inconsistent, inefficient, fragile, or emerging.

Deficient or Emergent Cognitive Functions can be analysed according to the three phases of the mental act: Input, Elaboration and Output. Input level comprises those impairments regarding the quantity and quality of data gathered by the child as they are confronted by a given problem, object, or experience. Elaboration levels include those functions which inhibit the effective use of available data and existing clues. Output levels include those factors that lead to an inadequate communication of final solutions.

So how do we shift cognition in children? Through assessing which cognitive functions at each level require further mediation and development. We as educators and mediators can use Mediated Learning Experience strategies to enhance their learning capacities.

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