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Using Cognitive Science when Creating Educational Content

Cognitive Science: Learning How We Learn

Utilizing the insights from cognitive science, we can create new teaching and content delivery methods to ensure high levels of aptitude and longevity in retention among learners. Professor Eric Isaacson of Indiana University defines cognitive science as the “interdisciplinary study of mind and the nature of intelligence.” Next time you are creating a new course, lecture, or any other type of educational content try and remember these key takeaways to improve your audience’s learning experience.  

cognitive learning

1. Start with a sound base: Learning is all about connections! 

  • Learning at the neural level: learning is about strengthening the connections between certain neurons. 
  • Clark Quinn says this about learning at a higher level: “learning is about designed action and guided reflection.” Quinn is saying that you need to make your learners connect new designated ideas with preexisting thoughts. Then the learner needs to examine and evaluate the information they have just ingested. 

2. Knowledge grows exponentially: 

  • MIT Neuroscientists reported, “synapses allow the brain to strengthen links between neurons, and presynaptic neurons influence the connection strength.” This means that previously understanding something will lead to a stronger connection when you learn more about it. 
  • Other studies have similarly concluded that factual knowledge precedes skill. In that having background knowledge on a subject allows us to read faster, understand more, and remember more later on when learning about the respected subject. 
    • It is very important that your learners have a solid knowledge base on the topic they’re about to study. Having prerequisites can have a big impact on the success or failure of a course.

3. Recalling vs. Rereading: Memory is the residue of thought 

  • Reading something and thinking about it obviously leaves a longer lasting impression than just reading it. 
  • As a learner, to understand a new thought or concept it is necessary to be able to explain that thought or concept in your own words.  
    • Study Tip: instead of highlighting key words or phrases, paraphrase the passage you just read. This will take extra time, but it will ensure your understanding of the topic.  

4. Interval Learning or Spaced Repetition: 

  • Learning Solutions author, Julie Dirksen said: “One encouraging thing I’ve seen in effective organizations are programs that are spread out over time, so people can practice, get feedback, and space out their learning.” 
  • Spacing out your learning or breaking larger tasks into smaller chunks not only creates deeper connections, but it will make your learners avoid cramming. 

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