Cognitive Theory: Explaining the Mental Process of Learning - Essay Sample

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1749 Words
Date:  2023-07-20


Cognitive theory is an approach that explains the workability of the mind during the learning process. It mainly focuses on the process in which the brain processes information. It is an approach that is based on the knowledge that human beings only process the information they receive, considering the response from the surrounding environment. Cognitive learning theory explains the mental process and how the process is influenced by external and internal factors that promote people to learn. The approach is accredited by one of the educational psychologist Jean Piaget who believes that learning and knowledge are built by the learners themselves through the existence of their cognitive structures. McLeod (2018) argued that the theory is more concentrated on the mental gain of the learners rather than their reactions. Teachers have the obligation of organizing the learning and teaching materials so as the intended concept can easily be acquired and processed by the learner's mind. In this theory, teachers must employ a variety of learning techniques. In explaining the cognitive theory of learning, Jean Piaget mainly focused on the development and growth of understanding in children. He believed in how children's mind worked and their contribution towards education. His primary focus was on how maturation increased the capacity of children's understanding of various world activities.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Piaget did his work by observing children take and perform their different activities; he put forward some ideas such as assimilation, conservation, and egocentrism that helped him in identifying and defining the four levels of child mental development. The sensorimotor stage, this stage occurred from 0 to 2 years of age, in this level the child was mainly concerned on learning more about the physical objects and gaining motor control. The Preoperational stage, this occurred from the ages of 2-7 years; this is a stage in which children are preoccupied with verbal skills such that they can organize different objects. The Concrete Operational Stage, it occurs between the ages of 7 to 11 years; in this stage, the child is involved in various abstract concepts such as relationships. The Formal Operational Stage, this is the stage in which the child transits from being adolescent its adulthood, it is the level in which the child begins to think logically and in a systematic manner (Lourenco, 2016). Piaget believed that the progression and the development of children through the mentioned stages was an advancement towards the level of cognitive development. The steps cannot be skipped, and in every scene, the child can interact and acquire new intellectual abilities and gain a significant understanding of the world.

Criticism of the Cognitive Theory

Various shortcomings were identified in the Cognitive theory. Leitch et al., (2018), argues that Piaget underestimated the children's ability by describing different concepts with confusing and complicated terms and giving them challenging tasks. In children, the theory mainly focuses on that which children cannot do. Williams (2018), demonstrated that children involved in the Piaget experiment were confused by the complexity of the tasks that used complicated language. Another criticism of the theory was based on the research methods, the primary motivation for the approach was Piaget's children, Broughton (2013) argues that the sample used was very small, and in most cases, children included in the sample came from well-educated families that had high social, economic status, hence this research sample was unrepresentative; therefore it was difficult to generalize his findings to the entire general population. The methodology was also problematic because it did not provide detailed information on how his respondents were selected and included in the sample; hence his findings were not conclusive. Researchers argued that the stages of child development could be inaccurate.

Leitch et al., (2018), pointed out that Piaget could have underestimated the growth of the children. It was found that some children developed object operational stage earlier compared to Piaget's belief. Other researchers found out that preoperational children were less egocentric compare to what Piaget thought. They found out that children of the same age could be widely varying in their stages developments. Another criticism leveled against the cognitive theory of learning is that Piaget did not offer any significant evidence about the qualitative difference of cognitive capacity between children of different developmental stages (McLeod, 2018). The cognitive stages of children's development believe that if a child has shown some signs of a new form of thinking, then that child has acquired a specific knowledge or ability. It should be understood that the opposite is exact in that most children tend to progress and grow rather gradually and slowly. Critics predicted that the thinking of a child in a particular stage was similar across the task given. Researchers argued that the ideology of children was diverse across different cognitive tasks. McLeod (2018), argued that Piaget theory used action-oriented technique; in this, I mean Piaget believed that physical utilization of extrinsic items was essential for optimal cognitive child development. Researchers argued that children who were born without the physical capacity of the outward action e.g., those that are born without the ability to walk, are capable of having healthy cognitive development.

Advantages of Cognitive Theory

Practically Piaget's theory had a significant influence on the duties and responsibilities of teachers in the classroom; it helped the teachers to provide opportunities for children to develop and create their learning techniques through various discoveries in different practical activities. Morra et al., (2012), supported the cognitive learning theory because it heavily relied on experiments at its primary research tool. This allowed children to have high control of various confounding variables. This helps children to have significant control of the extraneous variables. Proponents support the Piaget theory because it enhances and encourages several stages of child development that have qualitative differences as opposed to the complexity of concepts, ideas, and behaviors. Others agree that Piaget's theory of learning is essential because it mainly focuses on not only knowledge but also child development.

Critical Evaluation of Constructivism Learning Theory

Constructivism theory was developed by a Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky's. He did not assert to Piaget's theory that suggested that it was possible for learning to be separated from social context. He believed that every function in child growth appeared twice, that is on communicative and on a personal level. He did not find in the stages of childhood development as fronted by Piaget. He emphasized on the role of language and culture on the cognitive growth of a child. Vygotsky demonstrated how language was essential in learning by showing that communication in children is crucial in helping them acquire concepts and vocabulary (Narayan and Moss, 2013). Constructivism is one of the most influential learning approaches in modern society. It is a learning theory whose aim is to explain how learners develop, construct ideas, and can understand their world through community and personal activities. In recent days physiotherapy research has continually favored Constructivist techniques in learning. Other than the traditional emphasis of learning that primarily focused on the transmission of facts from teacher to students, the theory accounts for the experimental element of learning.

The approach creates an opportunity that demonstrates the transfer of knowledge in a way that circumscribes the student's experience. It is a learning theory that believes in learners constructing their ideas rather than acquiring new concepts. Proponents of social learning, such as Vygotsky, argue that knowledge is a collective social process. This means that one must, therefore, focus on developing a creative, collaborative, and interactive environment for the learners. Piaget and Vygotsky agreed that if a teacher has a good understanding of the learning theories, then he/she can input their knowledge to promote and enhance effective teaching methods under a conducive learning environment that support meaningful learning. Various studies have demonstrated that learners using constructivist learning techniques have critical interpersonal skills and superior skills in the area of their interest (Bada and Olusegun, 2015).

This is an advancement of the Piaget's theory of learning. The philosophy encourages teachers to organize ideas around more significant ideas that incorporate the learner's interest, to help the learner create new thoughts and help the learner to connect with previous learning effectively. It emphasizes activities that are learners centered and also encourages learners to do their tests, experiments, ask their questions, and make their conclusions. Researchers have argued that the constructivist technique in a classroom setting is more of a project-based training since it advocates more on assessment procedures. The theory is applicable in a classroom setting in such a way that those learners who understand a given concept are grouped with that do not understand. This will help learners to have a deeper understanding of the idea.

Criticism of Constructivism Theory

Even though many teachers and learners have continually embraced the use of constructivism theory, several arguments have been developed towards it. Kenny (2015), argues that the constructivist approach encourages a teaching technique that incorporates minimum instructional guidelines to the learners. They say that when students learn with unguided instructions, they tend to feel lost or frustrated. This practice does not, therefore, promote a productive learning environment. As per Von Glasersfeld (2012), constructivist learning theory does not allow learners to use tangible physical objects. Researchers argue that learners ought to demonstrate knowledge by creating artifacts. They say that constructivists only enable a learner to acquire knowledge through interaction with their peers. Another concern is that the Constructivist theory of learning overlooks essential contextual components in a learning environment such as the use of available educational materials, the use of media in education, among others. Critics argue that these factors have a significant contribution to the learners learning environment. A psychologist explains that this learning theory primarily focuses on cognitive factors ignoring other important factors.

Narayan (2013), criticizes constructivist learning theory because it mainly encourages group thinking and ignores individualism. Critics argue that dominant or knowledgeable students tend to control most of the discussions in a classroom setting, overlooking the average learners. These psychologists say that the knowledgeable group tends to drive the entire class into their thinking. Hence it only creates or develops few skilled learners. Critics also argue that Vygotsky's theory is not well-developed; they say that approach relies a lot on cultural influences in cognitive development and language acquisition; they dismiss the analogy by be demonstrating that several children take even years to learn necessary skills regardless of the support given to them.

Advantages of Constructivism Theory

Despite the critiques mentioned above, constructivist learning theory has continually remained to have a significant influence in the field of education. Proponent agrees that the method transforms learners from being passive respondents to active r...

Cite this page

Cognitive Theory: Explaining the Mental Process of Learning - Essay Sample. (2023, Jul 20). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience and 25% off!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism