Cognitive Learning Theory - Web Quest

Behavioral Theory
Cognitive Theory
Social Learning Theory





Cognitivism is a study of how learning occurs from a change in mental state. Cognitive psychologists contend that learning cannot be described in terms of a change in behavior. Learning occurs whether or not there is an observable change in the learner. Cognitive theorists also believe that an instructor can produce learning by transferring information to the learner and helping them to organize it in such a way that they are able to recall it later.

This raises questions from the behaviorists who believe that learning only occurs from a stimulus - response relationship, using reinforcers to motivate the learner. Cognitivists also believe in reinforcement, but on a different level. They reinforce the learner through a process of retrieving existing knowledge and presentation of new information. They assess the learner's retention of the new information and provide feedback and cues for effective organization of the information. Throughout the learning process, the instruction is motivated through a kind of mental stimulation, not behavior modification.

This theory also raises questions from the social learning theorists who believe that learning occurs through a modeling of behavior, dependent on environmental factors. Again, Cognitivists would disagree, because behavior is really not a factor of learning. Learning occurs regardless of a change in behavior. The environment could have an effect on the learning, but cognitivists believe that the instruction enables the learner to "look past" the environmental factors and organize the information that is important.


Ormrod, J.E. (1999). Human Learning (3rd Edition). Upper Sadle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Gagne, R.M., Briggs, L.J., & Wager, W.W. (1992). Principles of Instructional Design, 4th Edition. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers.