Sample research paper on cognitive learning theories

Cognitive styles are the preferred way in which information is processed by an individual. Unlike personal or individual differences in capabilities which narrates peak performance, styles exhibit typical model of person’s thinking, problem solving or remembering. Moreover, styles are generally believed to be bipolar dimensions while capabilities are unipolar. Having more of capability is normally considered advantageous while having a specific cognitive style just denotes an inclination to behave in a specific way. Cognitive style is generally narrated as a personality dimension which impacts values, social interaction and attitudes.

Learning in real sense is a complex process- possibly more complicated than anticipated. However, with the support of true information and proper training, anyone can learn faster, better and easier. With the perfect approach to increase cognitive skills, learning confrontations can be conquered. Cognitive skills are, in fact, underlying mental capabilities and similar to the academic knowledge gained in the class room.

Cognitive skills can be improved and changed. Malfunctioning or faulty cognitive skills make the experience of learning frustrating and difficult. Testing of cognitive skill is considered as one of the best ways to identify which particular cognitive skills are the primary causes of a learning problem and as such require strengthening. (Blanton, 2005)

Since 1960s, the theme of cognitivism has supported the predominant viewpoint within which almost all Learning Research has ultimately been conducted and different learning theories have evolved. Contemporary cognitivism signifies mental processes and suggests that most of the learning aspects could be exclusive to the human species.

The notion of Cognitivism has impacted educational theory by highlighting the teacher’s role in relation with the effectiveness of presenting instructional material in a way that supports learning of students. For instance, helping students to assess, review and relate previous learning on a specific topic before explaining new ideas or concepts about that topic. It could help students to understand the presented material by organizing it and understanding the differences found in learning styles of students etc.

Edward Tolman initially presented a theory that possesses a cognitive flair. Although he was a behaviorist, but assessed internal mental facts in his descriptions of how learning eventually occurs. Some of the main ideas presented by him are; it is necessary to study behavior at a local level; learning may occur without particular reinforcement; learning can occur without any alteration in behavior; it is essential to consider intervening variables; behavior is purposive; and anticipations of phenomenon behavior. (Blanton, 2005)

Learning results in an organized and planned body of information. Based on the research made on rats, Tolman proceeded to suggest that rats and different other organisms, in fact, develop certain cognitive maps of their environments. Rats learn when environment’s different parts are located in relation with one another. The theme of a cognitive map, also known as a mental map, has remained a focus of research. (Blanton, 2005)

Kolb (1984) presented experiential learning theory that involves four primary stages; concrete experiences; reflective observation; abstract conceptualization; and active experimentation. Kolb hypothesized four kinds of learners which are; assimilators, divergers, accommodators and convergers. (Kelly, 1997) Pask discussed a learning style which is known as serialist versus holist. Holists are more interested to learn in a hierarchical way, while serialists desire to learn in a sequential manner. The focus of theory presented by Gagne is on intellectual skills. He has identified five learning levels in his theory; verbal information; intellectual skills; cognitive strategies; motor skills; and attitudes. (Blanton, 2005)

Three strategies from the cognitive theories are presented as follows:


In order to learn from experiences by specifically reflecting on them and ultimately by changing behavior, it is essential for the trainer to understand the strength of open questioning. Solution-centered questioning is mostly adopted as a strategy by trainers, peers or consultants who are so keen in problem solving that they generally suggest own solutions through questions. For example, ‘Why don’t you negotiate with the trade unions?”

However, open-ended questions motivate a learner to analyze his or her specific experience and then search for a set of answers. This is necessary for effective experiential learning to occur. It is difficult to answer open-ended questions by ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There are two main purposes of open-end questions; first they engage the learner in discovering hitherto hidden aspects of the problem; second, they assist and support learner to identify real causes of the problem. (Blanton, 2005)


On the basic principles and theme of action learning, learner consults on the problems encountered during implementation of certain programs or projects. As such an encouragement is provided by supplying ideas for improvement and constructive criticism. Encouragement is a significant aspect of experience learning process. This is due to the fact that when there is a change in behavior, it mostly creates certain difficulties in the environment. For example a person who desires to become team oriented can do so by breaking old conventional barriers which could have been created by an authoritarian style in the past. Changed behavior specifically towards a participative style could arouse not only suspicion but also resistance. (Blanton, 2005)

For learners who have been questioned about their particular difficulties and thereby gained further perspectives on it and who have been challenged with information that could have confronted with their individual perceptions, it is essential for them to possess the feeling that ‘yes, I can do it’. In a training session, encouragement can be extended by learning about experience of someone else, to observe how the situation can be coped or by having participants plan their own situation.


It is generally confronted with the phenomenon that something is not being planned and executed; the learners are encouraged to attend a training program based purely on experiential learning. A classical dilemma is that of control and motivation. As such training programs can support to resolve the issue. A training situation with proper methods of confrontation followed by support and encouragement can enable a learner to accept that the facts do not match his/her perceptions and something has to be done about it. (Blanton, 2005)

In a training session, the element of confrontation could be created through some feedback from other participants on the learner’s behavior. Although, confrontation could be painful but is also constructive. In case undesired information is supplied without providing sentiments of psychological safety can result in painful confrontation. Confrontation should be constructive and occurs in an atmosphere of empathy where it is inherent that any type of mistake is human and that it is essential to learn from mistake- a practical and professional approach.


Blanton, B (2005) The Application of the Cognitive Learning Theory to Instructional Design.

International Journal of Instructional Media. 25(2)

Kelly, C (1997) David Kolb, The Theory of Experiential Learning and ESL. The Internet TEST

Journal, III (9) Retrieved November 02, 2008 from