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Instructional Strategy

Declarative Knowledge

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Principle Learning

Cognitive Strategy


Psychomotor Skill


Cognitive strategies are techniques that learners use to control and monitor their cognitive processes. There are two kinds of cognitive strategies: learning and thinking.

Learning Strategies: These are tactics for organizing, elaborating, manipulating, and retrieving knowledge. Learning strategies help facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and skills. Learning strategies can be categorized as either as cognitive or affective. Cognitive domain strategies are used to support information processing. They include organizing strategies, elaborating strategies, rehearsing strategies, and comprehension monitoring strategies. Affective domain strategies are often called support strategies. These strategies are the skills that people use to stay involved in the learning task and be successful in the learning activity. Examples of these strategies are time management and stress reduction.

Divergent Thinking Strategies: These strategies include techniques that help learners solve problems and generate new ideas.

One model used for teaching thinking strategies is the Synetics approach. This approach has six stages and helps learners generate new ideas or new ways to solve problems. During these phases learners are asked to clarify the learning task, generate analogies, and develop conflicting statements about objects.

To be successful at cognitive stragegy learning learners have to be able to do the following: analyze the requirements of the learning task, analyze one's ability to complete the task, select an appropriate strategy, apply the selected strategy, evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy, and revise if necessary.

There are different approaches to teaching cognitive strategies. The following are some approaches that can be used.

Discovery and Guided discovery: The instructor leads the student through questioning to discover a particular strategy.

Observation: Students learn the strategy by seeing the strategy demonstrated

Guided participation: The instructor guides the students through the use of the strategy.

Strategy instruction in books and courses: This refers to prepackaged instruction on strategies

Direct explanation: The instructor not only teaches the procedure of the strategy but also provides information on when and where the strategy should be applied.

Dyadic instruction: This instruction involves interaction between the learner and a knowledgable adult. During this instruction the adult demonstrates the strategy application and the learner then demonstrates the strategy for the instructor.

Self-instructional training: This strategy involves self-instruction as well as interactions with a teacher who may model the strategy and provide feedback to the learners.

Although cognitive strategies can be helpful in learning, many learners do not employ cognitive strategies spontaneously. Some factors that inhibit the use of these strategies are: low skill in strategy use, low motivation, students lack belief in their abilities, students lack the awareness of their own memory and processing characteristics, students lack knowledge of task characteristics, students aren't devoting enough time to learn the strategy, or they do not have the content knowledge needed to use the strategy.

Here are some ways that instruction events can be adapted when teaching cognitive strategies.


  •    To deploy attention, establish instructional purpose, and arouse motivation, instructors should have students complete a task that requires the use of a particular strategy and then discuss the specific strategy being learned.
  •    During the preview of the lesson the steps can be overviewed and a model can demonstrate the use of the strategy in an appropriate situation.

        2.          Body

The process of information, focus of attention, employing learning strategies, practice and feedback stages may have to be done more than once depending on the complexity of the strategy. If the strategy is complex part should be presented and practiced before another part is presented.

  •    To activate prior knowledge, instructors should compare the strategy to strategies that the students all ready know that are similar to the strategy.    
  •   During the process of information and the focus of attention instructors need to present when and where the strategy and be appropriately applied. This can be done by providing examples of situations that are appropriate for the strategy and then having the students identify the characteristics of appropriate situations.
  •  Learning strategies can be employed by contrasting the strategies with other strategies.
  •  During the practice and feedback stage students can practice the strategy by determing if provided situations are situations that are appropriate for using the strategy. They should also be able to tell why they feel the situations are appropriate and they should be able to relate this strategy to other strategies.

 3.            Conclusion

  •    To summarize and review the lesson and support the transfer of knowledge instructors should encourage learners to consider whether previously learned strategies are viable alternatives to the strategy or whether the strategy is unique.

  4.          Assessment

  •    To assess cognitive strategies instructors need to assess the students ability to apply the strategy. This can be done through think alouds or by evaluating artifacts of strategy use.

To show an example of how a cognitive strategy might be taught. I have provided a lesson teaching a cognitive strategy.

The students will identify the three parts of the KWL strategy and will practice employing the strategy.

The students will identify the major features of a U.S. National Park, Monument, or Historic Site.

  1.          Introduction

  •    To gain student attention, arouse interest, and establish instructional purpose tell the students that they will creating brochures about a U.S National Park, Monument, or Historic Site and that they will be using a KWL chart to identify what information they need to find to create their brochures.
  •    During the preview of the lesson give an overview of the three parts of the chart.

 2.         Body

  •    To activate prior knowledge describe other organizational strategies that the students may have used like webbing, lists, or outlining.
  •    During the process of information show the students how employ the strategy by using Yellow Stone Park as a model. Have students first tell you what they all ready know about Yellow Stone Park. Then have the students tell you what they want to know about Yellow Stone Park. Then provide answers to the questions generated in the section about what they want to know to show what was learned. Then explain that this strategy can be employed during anytime of research to keep information organized.
  •    During the learning strategies compare and contrast this strategy to other organizational strategies.
  •   To practice the procedure have them apply select a National Park, Monument, or Historic Site and have them use the chart to find information about that place. Make sure the students use another park, site, or monument other than Yellow Stone.

   3.                Conclusion

  •   To summarize and review the lesson and support the transfer of information have the students talk about this strategy in comparison to other organizational strategies to determine if other strategies can be used in this situation.

  4.                Assessment

  •     To assess the strategy assess the students chart and brochure to determined if they have correctly applied the strategy. The brochure should also be assessed to see if it had the required elements. A rubric could be used to evaluate the brochure.