Do behavioural and cognitive theories differ

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Behavioural theories stress the role of the environment, specifically, how stimuli are arranged and presented and how response is reinforced. Cognitive theories acknowledge the role of environmental conditions as facilitators of learning. Student practice of skills, combined with corrective as needed, promotes learning.


Behavioural theories define motivation as an increase rate of probability of occurrence of behaviour. Cognitive theories view motivation and learning as related but not identical.


Some of the behavioural theories conceive memory in terms of neurological connections, established as a function of behaviour that is associated with external stimuli. Cognitive theories assign a more prominent role to memory. The information is retrieved from memory in response to relevant cues that activate their appropriate memory structures.

Explain the concept reinforcement.

In a general sense, reinforcement is similar to a reward which in turn adds strength to behaviour or learning. Reinforcement is more precise than a reward. Consequences are presented dependent on a behavior. The behavior becomes more likely to occur, because the consequence is presented dependent on the behaviour. Reinforcement is a more precise way of controlling learners' behavior.

Explain and discuss the concept equilibration.

Equilibration will take place when a learner tries to bring balance between a simulation and accommodation. We all try to make sense of the world around us by assimilating new information into pre-existing mental schemes. This effort maintains a balance by equilibration, allows for a cognitive development and effective thought process.

Analyse the concept situated learning.

It is the learning of knowledge and skills that reflect the way it will be used in real life. Social interaction is a critical component of situated learning in an active group context. To achieve this, teachers should encourage learners to become involved in a 'community of practice' which embodies certain believes and

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behaviours to be acquired. Here learning normally occurs as the function of an activity, context and culture. It is unintentional rather than deliberate (Open Learning: 1996)

What is the meaning of "zone of proximal development" ?

According to Vygotsky (as quoted by Lazarus et al, 2006:59) the 'zone of proximal development' is that critical space where a child cannot understand something on his or her own, but has the potential to do so, through proximal interactions with another person. It is also known as the distance between actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development. It can simply be explained by saying that the zone of proximal development means that the gap between what learners can accomplish independently and what they cannot do, even with help.

How does the content of a learning task differ from the form of a learning task?

The task content includes the outcomes students are expected to attain as well as the actual material or subject matter they have to learn. The content of a task determines the cognitive operations that are required to attain the learning objectives.

The form of learning tasks differs in their purposes, the complexity of their procedures, the social organizations in which they are carried out and the products of their results. It is the complexity of the form of a task, its procedures, the product and the social organization that affect how learners will approach a task, and how they will think and work.

What is the difference between episodic, semantic and procedural memory?

Episodic Memory

Semantic Memory

Procedural Memory

Is the memory of personal events in our lives, for example remembering visiting the zoo when you were ten years old. When we have such a memory we go back in time.

Involves facts and includes knowledge such as how start a computer or names of famous modern painters.

This is a memory where one does not remember where or when one learned many of the basic skills that one has. Example: Driving a car.

Explain the concept interference.

Interference can happen when information gets mixed up with, or pushed aside by other information.

One form of interference occurs when people are prevented from mentally rehearsing newly learned information.

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Why is motivation such an important variable that affects academic learning?

Motivation directs behavior towards particular goals and determines what consequences are reinforced. It leads to increased effort and energy and also increases initiation of and persistence in activities. Motivation leads to improve an individual's performance. Learners who are motivated always look for better job or activity.

Explain the concept meta-cognition.

Meta-cognition consists of two basic processes occurring at the same time: monitoring your progress as you learn and making changes by adapting your strategies if you feel that you are not doing so well (Winn & Snyder: 1998). It is an important concept in cognitive theory and is about self reflection, self responsibility and initiative, as well as goal setting and time management. In other words it is a process of thinking about what you know and what you are doing and thinking how you can improve your learning. Meta-cognition can be seen as a higher level of cognitive processing because it refers to conscious decisions that we make about which cognitive processes and strategies to employ under certain circumstances.

What is the difference between self-efficacy and attributions?

Self-efficacy is to believe in one's capacity to succeed at tasks. It also can be explained as the believe one has that is capable of performing in a certain manner or attaining certain goals.

Attribution is a cognitive theory that considers a person's believes about causes of outcomes and how these believes influence expectations and behavior. (Alderman 1999:23).

Describe and explain the concept of strategic learning.

Strategic learning is where students or learners set goals for themselves for which they work hard and with diligence. Strategic learning is where learners posses a variety of different types of knowledge which includes the knowledge of themselves as learners.

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Section B


Cognitive Learning Styles and Strategies: Variables that influence learning.


In this assignment I am going to focus on, discuss and analyse cognitive learning strategies by using four different journals from different authors . Cognitive learning is a learning theory. I am going to make use of the following four journals to discuss cognitive learning theories:

Informed Teachers and Learners: the importance assessing the characteristics needed for lifelong learning. De La HARPE, B & RADLOFF, A. 2000. Informed Teachers and Learners: the importance of assessing the characteristics needed for lifelong learning. Studies in Continuing Education, 22(2): 169-182. Date of access: 02 February 2010.

The reflective abilities of expert and novice learners in computer programming. BREED, B. 2004. The reflective abilities of expert and novice learners in computer programming. SA-eDUC Journal, 1(1):6-14, 30 August 2004. Available: Date of access: 01 February 2010.

The role of Cognitive Learning Strategies and Intellectual Abilities in the Mental Model Building Processes. IFENTHALER, D., PABLO PIRNAY-DUMMER, SEEL, N.M. 2001. The role of Cognitive learning Strategies and Intellectual Abilities in the Mental Model Building Processes. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 5(4):353-366, 2007. Available: Date of access: 01 February 2010.

Developing motivation and cognitive learning strategies through an undergraduate learning community. STEFANOU, CR & SALISBURY-GLENNON, JD. 2002. Developing motivation and cognitive learning strategies through an undergraduate learning community. Learning Environments Research, 5(1), Jan 2002. Date of access: 02 February 2010.

Theoretical framework of the authors:

The authors stress the need in article (i), for learners to become lifelong learners. They also say that the focus on developing lifelong learning characteristics should form part of the learning

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objectives, teaching and learning activities and assessment tasks of every course by the subject teacher.

In article (ii), the authors look at the reflective abilities of expert novice learners in computer programming. A pilot study was done to determine the differences in the reflective abilities between expert and novice learners in computer programming.

The role of cognitive learning strategies and intellectual abilities in mental model building processes are looked at by the authors in article (iii). Cognitive learning strategies and intellectual abilities, play a major role in model centered learning and instruction. It provides a good working basis for fully or partially self-guided learning situations. They focused on how cognitive learning strategies have an effect on the individual learner.

In article (iv), the authors describe the effects on student motivation and cognitive learning strategies of an approach involving and undergraduate learner-centered community of learners' approach to instruction.

How the variables influence learning:

According to the authors in article (i), the study shows that in order for the students to become lifelong learners, they have to have a wide repertoire of cognitive learning strategies. The cognitive, meta-cognitive, motivational and affective characteristics are recognized as playing an important part in lifelong learning and effective university studies. In order effective lifelong learners, students must acquire both skill and will. Research shows the using of good study habits possessing a repertoire of cognitive learning strategies and being meta-cognitive about learning are associated with higher academic achievement.

In article (ii), students who do computer programming, use both their cognitive and meta-cognitive abilities and skills. Cognitive abilities play an important role, including critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students must be able to use unstructured data, devise the most effective solution for the problem and then also encode it in a computer language to get logical and useful results. According to (Gourgey, 2001:18), computer programming also requires learners to plan continuously, monitor their progress and evaluate their efforts which imply typical meta-cognitive skills.

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In article (iii), the authors investigated the effect of cognitive learning strategies and intellectual abilities on the quality of model building processes on individual learners. The data that they used on both nine and ten graders from secondary schools and undergraduate students, indicate only a few significant effects between the mental model building process and the cognitive learning strategies and intellectual abilities.

Six learning communities for their studies were chosen by the authors in article (iv). They say that these learning communities provide opportunities for students to think critically, solve complex problems and become lifelong learners.( According to Pike:1999), these learning communities had only an indirect effect on students' cognitive development as measured by their integration of information, gain on students learning and intellectual development.

Overview of literature

The authors describe in journal (i) how cognitive, meta-cognitive, motivational and effective aspects of learning can be assessed, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. They also discuss how the outcomes of this assessment can inform learning, teaching and assessment practices that foster lifelong learning. They also describe the characteristics of successful lifelong learners and how these can be developed as part of university studies. They then outline the rationale for assessing lifelong learning characteristics, describe how these can be assessed and discuss the value of assessing them for both teachers and learners.

For university students, the literature suggests to be effective learners, they need to have a well developed set of cognitive learning strategies, such as: memorizing, note making, summarizing, identifying main ideas, categorizing information and be able to match these to learning tasks. They also need to meta-cognitive, that is, know about and be able to control their learning and themselves as learners.

Teachers rarely get feedback about how their teaching may be effecting their students' cognition, meta-cognition, motivation and effect. When teachers seek feedback from students about the quality of their educational experiences, the strategies they use tend to focus on getting feedback on a narrow range of teaching activities, such as lecturing performance, rather than how students are learning (Powney & Hall, 1998). Teachers rarely ask students to give them feedback on their progress as learners or about whether and how they become effective lifelong learners. Neither students nor teachers may be aware of the full impact which cognitive, meta-cognitive,

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motivational and effective characteristics may have on their student's lifelong learning or how these may change as students' progress through their course of study. Without appropriate assessment of these characteristics, can students or teachers make informed decisions about the way they learn or teach?

From this overview of assessment methods, it is clear that there are many different ways in which teachers and students can gain useful information about student cognition, meta-cognition, motivation and effect. Another way is to ask students to keep a personal learning log in which they reflect on their learning experiences (Dart & Clark: 1991).

In article (ii), research was done by the author on how novice and expert learners differ in computer programming regarding their reflective abilities in each of the following phases:

Before starting the computer programming,

While performing their tasks,

After finishing the computer programming,

How should the learners manage their thoughts in order to be effective programmers?

What role should the educator play in the development of the reflective thinking of learners in computer programming?

Two methods of research were used. At first, a literature study was undertaken to look into the role of reflection in effective learning and secondly, an empirical study regarding the reflective abilities of expert and novice learners in computer programming was carried out. The author also does a report on the results of the study which was done.

Before starting to work on a computer, the result of the pilot study shows that the expert learners reflect more than the novice learner. It is an indication that experts do proper planning before starting to code the program lines. The surprising thing that the study showed was that some experts were just reading the problem once before starting. This is an indication that they read the problem inventively the first time to make sure that they understand from the beginning. A practical significant difference between the experts and the novices in the pilot study was found for the phase after they have completed the program. It must be noted that in both cases the

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means were low. This indicates that both the novices and the experts do not tend to do much, if any, reflection after the programming task has been completed.

The authors found in their studies in article (iii) that the less guidance subjects have in solving a problem, the more important general learning strategies and intellectual abilities become (Dummer & Ifenthaler: 2005). Since learning strategies and intellectual abilities have to be built up over a long period of time, the authors of this journal investigated their role in mental model building processes, which are an integral part of proper problem solving skills. Their (the authors of this journal) study also provides insight into the independency between the model building processes and cognitive learning strategies and intellectual abilities. Their current research provided students opportunities for reflection which enable them to construct mental models in order to solve problems. Cognitive learning strategies were investigated with standard LIST-test (Wild et al.,: 1992) which has been continuously developed and applied in tertiary education for over a decade. In addition to the four scales within the cognitive learning strategies factor, i.e. rehearsal strategies, organizational strategies, elaboration strategies and critical thinking, they additionally assessed the scale meta-cognitive strategies also.

The result from their analyses indicated very low independency between cognitive learning strategies and the model building process. Their results also indicate that measures such as meta-cognitive training on cognitive learning strategies are not sufficient when designing model- centered learning environments.

In article (iv) the study seeks to extend the knowledge on learning communities by investigating the effects of participating in an undergraduate learning community on college students' motivation and cognitive learning strategies. It suggested that learning communities can serve as one means of fostering students' motivation and cognitive strategies use, due to their emphasis on integrated coursework, active and collaborative learning environments, critical thinking and problem solving.


In the first journal I already mentioned that an important goal of university study is the development of lifelong learning. The students are most likely to develop the characteristics of lifelong learners when these are developed as a legitimate part of the curriculum. In this paper the authors also suggest that the traditional approach to teaching and learning in which assessment focuses mainly on content knowledge needs to be expanded to include assessment of the characteristics of lifelong learning.

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In article (ii) there are still several unanswered questions arising the pilot study. The pilot study was primarily meant to test the reliability of the questionnaire. It also produced interesting results regarding the differences in reflective thinking between expert and novice learners' computer programming.

According to the authors in article (iii), they came to a conclusion that the training of mental model building skills is complex problem. Like all the training for general skills it has to be embedded within comprehensible content from which learners can process in general.

In article (iv) the authors conclude by saying that the community of learners which incorporates integrated courses, emphasizes active an collaborative learning and integrates information technology and library resources as tools for learning, can serve as an effective classroom context for developing first year college students' motivation and cognitive learning strategies. They also say there is a need for further research into the effects of learning communities on students' motivation and cognitive strategy use in comparison with a more traditional undergraduate curriculum.

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