Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Increasing Academic Motivation and Cognition in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics: Meaning-Making Strategies

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Increasing Academic Motivation and Cognition in Reading, Writing, and Mathematics: Meaning-Making Strategies

Article excerpt

The Cognitive Approach to Teaching and Learning

The cognitive approach to teaching is a learner-centered approach that takes into consideration the environment or situational context in which the learner learns, the learner's knowledge base (as differences in knowledge may stem from varying linguistic and cultural backgrounds and/or learning disabilities), intrinsic motivation, in addition to improving the learner's ability to process information via cognitive and metacognitive approaches.

The teacher's role is one of facilitator, guide, or model, modeling the types of approaches or strategies that are essential to learning. Teaching is based on tapping prior knowledge, providing students with schemata and scaffolding, opportunities for peer/adult interaction, as well an awareness of the cognitive strategies that may be used to increase longterm memory capacity. Approaches include benefits of cooperative learning, reciprocal teaching, cognitive apprenticeship, anchored instruction, and jigsaw.

Patricia Alexander and Karen Murphy (1998) narrow down learner-centered principles to five themes: (1) knowledge base, (2) strategic processing or executive control, (3) motivation and affect, (4) development and individual differences, and (5) situation or context (p. 26).

Teachers need to have an understanding of the learner's knowledge base either through assessment, evaluation, prior teacher recommendations, and interaction with other teachers. Without knowing the knowledge base as well as how memory is processed, teachers will be at a disadvantage for helping students tap prior knowledge and develop schemata that can be applied to future situations.

Teachers need to facilitate learner strategic processing or executive control. In other words, teachers need to help students think about their thinking, reflect on the knowledge they possess, and show them how to apply specific strategies to particular situations. In doing so, students can learn to strategically process information in specific academic domains. For example, a student may approach an expository reading assignment differently from a non-expository piece of literature. This metacognition is essential in processing information more effectively despite the intellectual level of the student.

To understand motivation and affect, teachers need to be aware of the situational as well as curricular context in which knowledge is to be transferred to the student. Knowing that intrinsic motivation is higher in problem-solving types of courses such as physics or chemistry but lower in critical thinking types of courses such as social studies is essential (Alexander & Murphy, 1998). Motivating students in physics courses is less demanding than in the social sciences. Teachers must use strategies that help students become engaged in the learning process. Examples of these strategies include cooperative learning, jigsaws, problem-solving, and mnemonics.

No longer can teachers or districts disregard varying learner abilities with the excuse that everything is in the form of bell-shaped curve. Instead development and individual differences must be taken into consideration especially when the student population has become so diverse in terms of culture, linguistics, and learning disabilities. What are the types of strategies or approaches that work best with all students? Knowing what specific strategies work well with the majority of students helps teachers differentiate the curriculum.

As mentioned under motivation and affect, the situation/context, or the environment the learner is exposed to influences the success of the learner. Social interaction not only with the curriculum, but peers, other teachers, home and neighborhood surroundings provides students with practice, feedback, and opportunities to apply what they have learned. What are the strategies that can be used to reach these students at school as well as at home? …

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