Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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  • Mayer, R. E. (1992). Cognition and instruction: Their historic meeting within educational psychology. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84,405-412.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the emergence of cognitive approaches to instruction. Mayer presents an historical analysis of the relationship between psychology and education, noting the failure of educational psychology to contribute as a guiding science to educational practice, a failure partially attributable to the behaviorist movement. Many of the problems in the field of psychology have been overcome with the paradigm shift toward the study of the cognitive processes of students in natural settings. Mayer details three metaphors of learning that have influenced views of instruction: learning as response acquisition, learning as knowledge acquisition, and learning as knowledge construction. If learning is response acquisition, then drill and practice are appropriate instructional strategies since the goal would be to increase the number of correct behaviors in the learner's repertoire. When learning is viewed as knowledge acquisition, the teacher dispenses information, primarily through lectures and having students read from textbooks. With the most recent metaphor for learning as knowledge construction, the focus of instruction is on helping the student develop learning and thinking strategies. Mayer presents a cognitive model of knowledge construction with the following components: learner characteristics (prior knowledge, interest, and motivation), instructional manipulations (what is taught and how), learning processes (internal cognitive structures constructed during learning such as selecting, organizing, and integrating), and outcome performance (external performance on tests). The final section of the paper is devoted to an examination of specific aspects of learning to read and write.

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