Acquiring Knowledge

Acquiring Knowledge

Intended Learning Outcomes
What students learn
Way of Learning
Origins and theory
Common Methods
What the teacher provides
Acquiring knowledge
Basic information, concepts, and terminology in a discipline or field of study
Cognitive learning
Cognitive psychology: attention, information processing, memory

Is this learning that involves information acquisition? Does it involve new ideas, new terminology, or useful theories? Does it require under¬standing how something works or functions? Is this information that might be presented through an explanation? Is it possible to identify key concepts, main ideas, or points to be understood and remembered? These are learning outcomes that are well served by cognitive learning.

A political science teacher uses sports analogies to help students draw on prior knowledge to understand new information. How is the U.S. Constitution like the rules of the game in sports? How does this comparison help students acquire knowledge about politics?

Teachers who want students to use cognitive learning effectively do the following

  • recognize that presentations are only effective for transmitting information


  • gain students’ attention
  • tell students what to focus attention on
  • don’t overload the system
  • slow down for new or difficult material and don’t compete with distractions, regain attention when necessary
  • don’t compete with distractions slow down for new or difficult material

Information processing

  • realize that interpretation is always taking place
  • help students discover the overall structure in the information being presented
  • present information in context
  • help students with meaning making
  • build strong bridges from prior knowledge to new information
  • use visuals and images to help with processing
  • devise ways to ensure that students are actively involved


  • allow time for short-term memory to function
  • get students actively involved in remembering
  • provide mnemonic devices if needed
  • let students know rehearsal alone doesn’t work

How do you use this way of learning?

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