In taking a cue from the Wizard of Oz the use of instructional strategies such as cues, questions, and advance organizers (as opposed to lions, and tigers, and bears) as well as effective summarizing and note taking helps students more clearly recognize information connections and works to assist students in becoming information ‘wizards’. In looking closely at the essential purpose of these instructional strategies in relation to classroom usage they are to provide mechanisms which assist students in organizing and storing information in long-term memory so that it can be accessed later to effectively solve problems. As Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn & Malenoski (2007) highlight in their research on strategies which help students acquire and integrate learning, instruction which “focuses on enhancing students’ abilities to synthesize information” (p.119) allows students to analyse and organize information in a manner that is personally meaningful. Now in identifying a correlation between these identified instructional strategies and cognitive learning theory this element of meaningfulness is important because it speaks to a critical factor in promoting long-term memory and the retrieval of information. Cognitive learning theory centers on the premise that meaningful information is stored in a structured fashion within short-term and long-term memory, and that information is accessible through the development of learning connections established through active interaction. Meaning, in simplified terms, the more connections that are developed the more likely it is that the information will be stored and then retrieved when needed. It is in identifying this need for purposeful interaction with information and the development of learning connections that the incorporated use of effectual instructional strategies, such as cues, questions, and advance organizers as well as efficient summarizing and note taking, correlates directly with the tenets of cognitive learning theory.
Now simply possessing subject knowledge will not help students learn and retain new information unless they are able to connect to this information and effectively apply it when needed. By using instructional strategies such as those noted teachers can effectively activate background knowledge and help their students focus on what they will be learning, and in doing so influence what students will learn by assisting them in generating connections between the information they already know and the information they will need to know. An example of this is in the use of advance organizers which makes learning more meaningful to students by effectively helping them learn new material by relating it to personal experiences and prior content knowledge in a visual format. This visual format appeals to students in that they are able to get creative and express their thoughts in a manner which makes sense to them. In terms of effectiveness the use of advance organizers within instruction efficiently addresses multiple learning modalities which as Orey highlights allows information to be internalized within multiple learning networks thereby increasing the probability of long term memory and the likelihood of information being recalled when needed (Laureate Education, Inc., 2010). Through their actions students are able to pinpoint their efforts and develop further information links which may assist them in remembering information. In using advance organizers such as concept mapping programs like Kidspiration students are motivated and given an enjoyable method to collaboratively brainstorm and recognize new ideas whilst developing their maps. Concept mapping affords students the opportunity to evaluate information and communicate their thoughts more efficiently thereby allowing them to enhance their knowledge of the initial topic. Likewise having the ability to take meaningful notes and summarize information in an effective manner allows students to structure and understand content information easier, this again speaks to the need for purposeful interaction. As Pitler et al. (2007) observe, an effective method for note taking is one which incorporates “outlining, webbing, and pictographs in addition to words” (p.124). In generating these useful notes students are able to take information and synthesize it into a form that is easier to process using their own words. Being able to effectively synthesize and elaborate on information helps students build those much sought after cognitive learning connections and allows them to integrate new knowledge that much easier.
In identifying the benefits associated with using cognitive instructional strategies to enhance student learning they are countless. Through their effectual use student creativity is encouraged, comprehension is increased, and most importantly the degree of engagement is raised as learning becomes more meaningful to students. In utilizing instructional strategies such as cues, questions, and advance organizers as well as efficient summarizing and note taking teachers are able to assist learners who may have a wealth of information related to a topic but may need help in recognizing how everything is connected. In actively working to draw on background knowledge and allowing students to personally represent information in a manner that is meaningful students are able to evaluate and organize information in the interest of reaffirming learning connections. Clearly these strategies encourage students to be active in the learning process and build upon the cognitive goal of providing meaningful opportunities to interact with information so as to encourage retention, i.e. learning.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Program five: Cognitive learning theories. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6289937&Survey=1&47=8834938&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1.
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works.Alexandria, VA: ASCD.