Levels of Cognition in Teaching Adult Vocational Education Programs in Central Ohio

By Squire, P. J. | Journal of Instructional Psychology, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Levels of Cognition in Teaching Adult Vocational Education Programs in Central Ohio


Squire, P. J., Journal of Instructional Psychology


The purpose of the study was to explore and describe the cognitive levels of adult vocational education programs in Central Ohio. Data were collected by use of an interview schedule from vocational institutions that were cluster sampled. Findings from the study indicated that the instructors taught and evaluated adult vocational education programs in discrete or combinations of levels of the cognitive classification system taxonomy developed. The findings showed that the adult vocational instructors in Central Ohio had diverse professional and demographic characteristics which in various ways related to teaching and instruction at the vocational institutions. Correlations revealed a positive relationship between workshops and seminars the instructors had attended, and a moderate association between instructors' status and inservice training.

"The world of work is continually changing and it is the task of vocational education to equip students to function effectively within the world.... Teachers must actively encourage originality, initiative and thinking ability so that students will be able to cope with changes in their chosen occupation and in the total complex world in which they will live" (Allen, 1974).

The term cognition (Dejnozka & Kapel, 1991) is often defined by the branch of psychology from which it stems. Many cognitive psychologists restrict the definition of cognition to the higher mental processes such as knowledge, intelligence, thinking, acquisition of new meaning, generating plans, strategies, reasoning and problem solving. Many behaviourists, on the other hand, would restrict the term to conditioning, rote verbal learning, and other procedures or processes consistent with their approach to learning. Still other schools of thought have their specific and varied definition which generally implies the gaining of knowledge.

Winne (1985) described cognition to include the processes of perception, thinking, reasoning, understanding problem solving and remembering. Page et al. (1980) and Thomas (1992) referred to cognition as an umbrella term for the process of perception, discovery, recognition, imagining, judging, memorizing, learning and thinking by which the individual obtains knowledge and conceptual understanding or explanation.

According to Blishen (1969), cognition includes dimensions common to all types of knowing such as feelings, relationships, ideas, and the processes of imagining, judging, remembering, understanding, problem solving, and reasoning. Flavel (1977) posited that humans are cognitive beings and carry out a variety of mental operations to achieve a number of mental products. These operations, according to him, can be said to be cognitive.

A classification system developed by Bloom and his associates in 1956 indicated that the cognitive domain consists of categories built upon a hierarchy from simple to complex, ranging from knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. Newcomb and Treftz (1987) consolidated Bloom's taxonomy to include the four categories of remembering, processing, creating and evaluating.

The concept of cognition has implications for learning and teaching. To a large extent, Sefert (1991) explained, students learn by acquiring and organizing knowledge. This process sometimes produces immediate or obvious changes in their behaviour, but more often merely sets the stage for such changes by making them more flexible in their choice of responses and courses of action. Such a view of learning assumes that human beings are more than just their actions: that they also think, remember, perceive, and become motivated.

Teachers can facilitate cognitive development among learners by using the instructional interventions and strategies recommended by Johnson and Thomas (1992): (1) helping students organize their knowledge, (2) building on what students already know; (3) facilitating information processing and deep thinking through elaboration, and (4) making the thinking process explicit. …

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