Guiding Questions

Guiding Questions

  • How did the roles of problem solving, insight, and activity change ideas about learning (Gestalt approaches)?
  • How have Cognitivist approaches impacted teaching and learning and what is their significance?
  • In what ways do this week’s readings connect with your experiences of teaching and learning?


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Before attending to this week’s readings, think about the questions above. Much like you would do a K-W-L Chart with your students; determine what you KNOW about the topic and what you WANT to KNOW about the topic. Your R2R Post will indicate what you LEARNED about this week’s content. Refer to the R2R details and the success criteria outlined in the Syllabus.



  • Complete Assigned Readings
  • Post R2R#3 (
  • Comment on at least 2 of your classmates’ posts
  • Reply to the first person to comment on your post

Classmate 1

The main difference between behavioral theories and cognitive theories is that behavioral theories did not take into account what was going on in the human mind. In the world of behaviorism, there was a focus on forming associations between a stimuli and a response. Cognitivism on the other hand, focuses on the internal processes that intervene between a stimuli and a response (Schunk, 2012).  It is also important to note that cognitivism differs from behaviorism in the belief that the whole is meaningful and looses meaning when reduced to individual components, where as in behaviorism the opposite is true. The Gestalt theory had a huge impact on how teaching and learning is viewed today. In Gestalt view, learning is a cognitive phenomenon involving reorganizing experiences into different perceptions of things, people, or events (Schunk, 2012). The Gestalt theory connects problem solving, insights and activity. When a person encounters a problem, there is a natural instinct to solve that problem. The only variable known at the beginning stages is the problem itself. The person now has to determine the missing piece; the solution. That person may go through multiple experiences before finally finding a solution; this is when insight occurs. According to the gestalt theory, humans use the principles of proximity, similarity, common direction, simplicity and closure to reorganize experiences.

Cognitive theories contributed much to teaching and learning. In cognitivism, many things are considered regarding how humans learn. Attention span is one of the factors the contributes to learning and how information is processed. Attention span refers to how long a person can focus on the same things before their mind wanders off to something else. Schunk states that attention span is related to student age, hyper-activity, intelligence, and learning disabilities. By taking into consideration these different factors educators can begin to identify the differences in their learners. Teachers can promote student attention through the use of classroom activities related to content. Along with attention span, cognitive theories take into consideration, reception of information, perception, short term/working memory, prior knowledge and experiences of the learning. Teachers promote learning through the use of visuals, hand-on activities and short instruction. The biggest contribution to learning from cognitivism is allowing students to play a role in their learning, rather than always being expected to see the world from someone else’ view. Students are able to build knowledge through the exposure of a wide range of experiences. I strongly believe in cognitive theories. For me, the idea that  knowledge is acquired through learning is the most important aspect of cognitivism. As an educator, I believe that each of my students has the ability to learn and gain knowledge and learn. Being that most of my students of ELL’s I know that in order for learning to occur, I have to display information in various ways to meet the needs of my various learners. Most, if not all, of my lessons are centered around the SIOP model. Each lesson also contains the four domains of language; reading, writing, listening and speaking. Throughout the year, students who come to school in September without a word of English, leave speaking, writing and reading the language. Schunk recommends the use of eye-catching displays or actions at the start of lessons to grab students attention, as well as walking around while students are working. These actions really help to promote students attention and keep them actively engaged in our lessons. The consideration of students experiences and prior knowledge also play a huge role in how successful they will be in the learning process. In most cases, students need to have met a prerequisite skill in order to meet another. By front-loading and scaffolding information prior to a lesson, we can ensure that our students have the appropriate skills to master the required skill. For example, if a student is expected to multiply a 3 digit number by a 2 digit number, they will first need to know how to multiple a 1 digit number by a 1 digit number, and so on and so fourth. Learning is something that is achievable by any learner as long as they are provided with the proper skills and tools to do so.

classmate 2

For the behaviorist, the acquisition of knowledge came from the acquisition of a new behavior. It was something that happened to a learner. The theorist from the Gestalt approach believed that learning/knowledge depended upon something being  done by the learner. (Phillips & Soltis, 2009, pg. 33) This means that “every learner is active, both mentally and physically, when engaged in learning.”(Phillips & Soltis, 2009, pg. 33)The behaviorist looked at the way we process more external than internal.  The Gestalt approach disagreed with behaviorist about consciousness. Gestalt theory says that meaningful perception and insight occur only through conscious awareness. (Schunk, 2012, pg. 176) And Koher drew the conclusion that learning takes place through an act of insight,(Phillips & Soltis, 2009, pg. 35) and insight occurs when people suddenly “see” how to solve a problem. The Gestalt approach changed ideas about learning because it focused on the idea of humans seeing things as a whole and not just in parts.  And according to the theory, “the capacity to view things as wholes is an inborn quality.”(Schunk, 2012, pg. 176) So this is something that we are in fact born with. The Gestalt approach also states that “well organized material is easier to learn and recall.”(Schunk, 2012, pg. 186) So if information is delivered in a well organized way, the learner should be able to retain it better. But not only does the information need to be well organized, learning also happens best when the instruction is related to real life experience. We read in Phillips and Solitis that “a problem can only be solved if both it and the ingredients of its solution are meaningful.”(Phillips & Soltis, 2009, pg. 39)

When it comes to the cognitive approach, this focuses on the way we think. This includes our perceptions, attention, memory, thinking and consciousness as we read a lot about in Learning Theories chapter 5.  The cognitive approach is significant because it focuses on how  we ( the students) understand information and concepts. Also how we make connections between different concepts being taught. The cognitive approach teaches students how to effectively use their brains to make these connections. This is done by students being physically, and mentally active and alert and engaged.(Phillips & Soltis, 2009, pg. 38)

After the readings for this week, I noticed that I also use some the cognitivist approach inside my classroom. I always have discussions about what is being taught, or have them explain their thinking.  When working with younger children this can be difficult, because they often do not know how to explain their thoughts. So by having these discussions, it gives them practice on how to formulate the words and ideas. I also use visuals whenever I can. Just so they can have the help of creating a picture for themselves down the line.

classmate 3

Hello all,

This week, the reading focused on cognitivism; specifically, the Gestalt approach and the Information Processing Theory. Past theories of learning stated that learning was “more or less something that happened to a learner rather than being something that a learner did or achieved.” (Phillips and Soltis, page 33) The Gestalt view states that “learning is a cognitive phenomenon involving reorganizing experiences into different perceptions of things, people, or events.” The word Gestalt means organization, as learners we experience objects or events as organized wholes. Through experiments and studies theorists adopted different approaches on learning. Kohler’s experiments concluded that learning “takes place through an act of insight”, and in order to do so the learner must be familiar with the problem and its solution. The learner “mentally or physically manipulates until a connection is made and a solution is found.”

The roles of problem solving, insight, and activity changed ideas about learning by stressing that in human learning, we respond to meanings, and when we make intellectual connections! I can relate to one of the cases from chapter 4, I have never been “good” at learning history, in high school it was so BORING…I never made intellectual connections with the material, and my teacher was the worst – so dry. My opinion on history class was that I couldn’t just learn the material, I needed to make meaning and connections to really learn it. History is still not my strong point, but I have found much more meaning in certain events.

As an educator and learner, I know that the approach of cognitivism and the idea of learning happens when you make meaningful intellectual connections to be spot on. “Humans are wired so that they grow from experiences in ways that enable them to solve problems and achieve goals…a problem can only be solved if both it and the ingredients of its solution are meaningful.” (Phillips and Soltis, page 39) As an educator, when planning lessons, I want to get better at ensuring that I am presenting material in a way that my students can relate to it. It is important in learning that they can apply meaning and that they understand the uses of the skill/material being taught. Another quote from the reading I agree with is that “we should avoid setting up no-win situations for our students-such as assigning tasks that are beyond their present capacities or experience, where they are bound to fail and thus are made to appear unintelligent.” (Phillips and Soltis, page 34.) We meet our students where they are at; with high expectations, purposeful instruction, and student’s engagement our students will learn. I believe that engaged students, making connections and finding meaning in the content, are learning student!

Thanks for reading.

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