On this page are activities or materials related to thinking and cognition as it occurs in school or classroom settings.

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Demonstrating Basic Information Processing

It is easy to demonstrate the basic elements of information processing theory--the nature of attention, short-term memory, executive processes, and long-term memory. The five activities below illustrate each of these cognitive functions. As a group, the demos fit nicely within 60 minutes of class time, though they can be embellished to take longer. (See also Theories of learning.)

- Seifert Seifert Aug 27, 2009

Basic Information Processing, Part 1: Attention (sometimes also called short-term sensory store)

Basic Information Processing, Part 2: Short-term Memory (similar to, or perhaps also identical with, working memory)

Basic Information Processing, Part 3: Long-term Memory

Basic Information Processing, Part 4: Relating the demonstrations of information processing to classroom learning

Basic Information Processing, Part 5: Learning by Doing vs. Learning by Simple Rehearsal

Attention Processes in More Detail

If you are looking for more detail and research-related information about attention processes, try this link, which is a module on the topic from the Open University. Possibly it has TOO much information for some preservice teacher education students, but check it out and decide for yourself. The material is very well organized.

- Seifert Seifert Nov 8, 2010

Effect of Language on Cognition

If your course includes coverage of Piaget's theory of cognitive development, then you may need to address the relationship between language and cognition: does language guide and stimulate development of thinking (a Vygotskian perspective), or does it follow and reflect development of thinking (a Piagetian perspective)? Here is a classroom demonstration that helps students thinking about this question.

- Seifert Seifert Nov 17, 2010

Social Influences on Cognition

Although Piaget's theory might give the impression that cognition develops more-or-less inevitably from active experience, studies show that it is actually very much subject to social pressures and biases. Here is a classroom demonstration that illustrates just how malleable most of us are.

- Seifert Seifert Nov 17, 2010 (See also Social relationships.)

Does Gesturing Help Thinking or Help Communication?

(After you get to this link, scroll about half-way down the page to get to this particular article.)
Every teacher knows students who gesture a lot when they talk; they seem to "think with their hands." Does the gesturing help them to think? There is a concise summary of research on this question at this blog, written by Wray Herbert. It turns out that gesturing is helpful to learning, but only if students gesture "appropriately" (i.e. in a way that maps logically onto what they are saying). So...maybe teachers ought to encourage gesturing--or even encourage children to count on their fingers?...

- Seifert Seifert Mar 23, 2010

Effects of Familiarity on Problem Solving

For most people (including students), the difficulty of a thought problem depends not just on the challenge of thinking logically, but also on familiarity with the terms of the problem. Here is a classroom demonstration of this idea; it presents a single logic problem in two ways--one using arbitrary terms and the other using familiar terms. The difference in difficulty is substantial!

- Seifert Seifert Nov 9, 2010

Basic Issues about Problem Solving

Here is text for a lecture/discussion about the fundamental nature of problem solving. The information is not quite in Powerpoint format, but is written in a style that can be rendered into Powerpoint format easily.

- Seifert Seifert Nov 10, 2010

Simulating Learning to Read

One way to understand the child's experience of learning to read is to simulate the experience yourself. Here is a classroom activity that does this for preservice education students; it focuses on the challenge of initial "word attack."

- Seifert Seifert Nov 19, 2010

The Relationship Between Divergent Thinking and "Creativity"

What constitutes "creativity," especially as it might manifest in the classroom? Is the classic measure of divergent thinking really part of it? This participatory and discussion-based activity can help students begin to address these questions, if not fully answer them.

- Seifert Seifert Dec 7, 2010

Mistakes in Cognitive Processing in Everyday Life

A video lecture by Dan Gilbert, Harvard economics professor, about the many ways that human beings make mistakes when solving everyday problems. Many ideas here that are useful for managing students' behavior, both as individuals and as a class. This is one of the "TED" lectures; about 30 minutes in length.

- Seifert Seifert Jan 18, 2011

Assorted British-based Instructional Materials for Teaching about Cognition

This is part of a British website that supports the teaching of general introductory psychology. The above link is all about cognition, but it is also worth poking around among some of the other pages at the same site.

- Seifert Seifert Sep 2, 2011