What Are You Implying, Cognitive Science??



When I think of the word “cognitive”, the first mental image that comes to my mind is a brain—a pink mass of matter that has all of these electrical signals running through it.

Of course, with the word “science”, I think about studying something.

Here is a more apropos definition: cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of the mind and intelligence (Cognitive Science, 1996).

Hmm, I guess my associations with the words “cognitive” and “science” are not too far off from the definition of cognitive science.

Now for the million-dollar question: How does cognitive science apply to my teaching/learning setting?

Since we’ve began our studies with cognitive science, I’ve ran across three important implications of cognitive science that I think can help me with my instruction:

  1. My own learn styles can be reflective of how I might construct my teaching/learning setting.
  2. Understanding adult learning or andragogy is important to me as a high school teacher
  3. Artificial intelligence could be a great tool to taking my students’ learning experience to the next level.

Implication 1: Learning Styles Tell The Truth…

When I looked at my learning style results, I was astounded but not really surprised to see that I am more verbal than visual. For a long time, I thought myself to be more of a visual guy but apparently not so much any more. If one is more of a verbal learner, he/she gets more out of words—written and spoken explanations (Felder, n.d.). When I think about how I teach, this is true. I am a Spanish teacher. The way I teach my classes are abstract. I prefer that the students speak and use their dialogue (words) in order to acquire new concepts and learn the language. I don’t instruct using a lot of visual materials. Nevertheless, I have the visual materials in the event the students need them.

Additionally, I am more of a sensory than intuitive learner. One characteristic of a sensor is that they do not like courses that have no apparent connection to the real world (Felder, n.d.) This is sooooo true for me. It’s important for me to make clear to my students the real world application our lessons have. Moreover, it’s important that I create lessons that the students can apply to the real world.

Implication 2: Adult Learning is Important to Understand

Adult learning or andragogy is the art and science of helping adults learn (Conlan, Grabowksi & Smith, 2003). I teach in high school. I believe that by the time students reach the age of 14 or 15, they start to learn as adults learn. Granted, there will be some variance in attention span and discipline. But overall, I think that it’s important that I take heed to some underlying assumptions of andragogy that I can apply to high school students; two of them in particular. The first is that adults have accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that are a rich resource for learning (Conlan, Grabowksi & Smith, 2003). I think that teenagers have enough life experience at their ages from which they can pull and utilize in their learning experience. An example of this would be in order to get students to learn the past tense in Spanish, I would ask them to talk about a past vacation they took.

The second underlying assumption of andragogy I think is applicable to high school aged students is that adults are problem-centered and interested in the immediate application of knowledge (Conlan, Grabowksi & Smith, 2003). My students are forever asking me “Why are we doing this?” “How will I use this in my life?” Thus, I always try to make sure we address themes/concepts that are relevant to them and that they can use right away.

Implication 3: Look Out! Here Comes AI

In a language class, speaking needs has to have two major elements in order to be achieved: comprehensible input and social interactions (Yang, 2007). Thus, the language classrooms need to make sure there is a sufficient enough input and social interactions (Yang, 2007).

Artificial intelligence (AI) gives students the opportunity to experience outside of class the same comprehensible input and social interactions they experience in class. AI technology such as Lucy (a virtual person with which students can interact) or audio pieces can help students simulate the in class learning experiences (Yang, 2007).

I understand that the ubiquity of technology in education is inevitable. I am trying my best now to get accustomed to incorporating it into my instruction before it becomes something I have to do and haven’t the slightest clue of how to do so.

To conclude, I just want to say I think that cognitive science is a good field with which to be familiar—especially in education. Frankly, I think educators need to understand how students learn so they can make adjustments that will help them be more effective. I must say though, reading over our materials has make me ask myself will artificial intelligence ever replace teachers…just a thought. Or rather one more implication…

Class Question (s): How do you feel about the way you teach? On what areas do you think you think you can improve? Do you think that being familiar with cognitive science helps with your teaching?

Video: Zeno Could Replace Teachers


Cognitive Science. (1996, September 23). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cognitive-science/

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K.. (2003). Adult learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Adult_Learning

Felder, R.M. & Soloman, B.A. (n.d.). Learning styles and strategies. NCSU. Retrieved from http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm

Sillitoe, D. & Wainwright, O. (2015, May 20). Meet Zeno, the robot that could replace teachers. The Guardian. [Video].

Yang, S. (2007, April). Artificial intelligence for integrating English oral practice and writing skills. Sino-US English Teaching. Volume 4 (No. 4). Retrieved from https://post.blackboard.com/bbcswebdav/pid-3008068-dt-content-rid-24824931_1/courses/EDU510.901202035896/Documents/Artificial%20Intelligence%20for%20Integrating%20English.pdf




Published by: Jim Lee

I am an educator by day and an educator by night! I love what I do and want to ultimately be a positive force in this world before its all said and done.

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