Summary: The cognitivist paradigm essentially argues that the “black box” of the mind should be opened and understood. The learner is viewed as an information processor (like a computer).

Originators and important contributors: Merrill -Component Display Theory (CDT), Reigeluth (Elaboration Theory), Gagne, Briggs, Wager, Bruner (moving toward cognitive constructivism), Schank (scripts), Scandura (structural learning)

Keywords: Schema, schemata, information processing, symbol manipulation, information mapping, mental models

Cognitivism

The cognitivist revolution replaced behaviorism in 1960s as the dominant paradigm. Cognitivism focuses on the inner mental activities – opening the “black box” of the human mind is valuable and necessary for understanding how people learn. Mental processes such as thinking, memory, knowing, and problem-solving need to be explored. Knowledge can be seen as schema or symbolic mental constructions. Learning is defined as change in a learner’s schemata.

A response to behaviorism, people are not “programmed animals” that merely respond to environmental stimuli; people are rational beings that require active participation in order to learn, and whose actions are a consequence of thinking. Changes in behavior are observed, but only as an indication of what is occurring in the learner’s head. Cognitivism uses the metaphor of the mind as computer: information comes in, is being processed, and leads to certain outcomes.