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Teaching Styles: Everything you need to know about teaching methods and strategies

Have you ever thought about how each classroom teaches things differently? In this article, we answer what are teaching styles, why are there multiple teaching styles, what are the different styles, and which style works the best today?

Teaching styles

What are teaching styles?

Teaching styles, also called teaching methods, are considered to be the general principles, educational, and management strategies for classroom instruction.

The use of different teaching styles started in the beginning of the twentieth century. This was due to the amount of research being poured into different learning methods. Once we understood that everybody learns differently, it became obvious that there need to be different teaching styles to accommodate the learning styles.

Two philosophers, John Locke (Some Thoughts Concerning Education) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (On Education), developed different theories as to how to educate which lead us to have the idea of different teaching styles today. Locke saw the importance of developing a child’s physical habits first anything else. To Locke, this was essential to a child’s development. Rousseau believed that education should be more centered on a child’s interactions with the world and the teaching style should concentrate less on books.

Why have different teaching styles?

Why can’t everyone be taught the same way? Well, why can’t you learn something the same way as your partner or next door neighbor? Everybody learns different ideas at different times at different paces. Some people can learn something on the first try after being told what to do whereas others might need to have hands-on experience in order to learn and possibly repeat it a few times to really get the hang of things. 

Different teaching styles are necessary because the students need to be able to learn what the teacher is teaching. However, the choice of teaching styles used can also depend on the school mission statement, the classroom demographics, the educational philosophy of the teacher, and most importantly, the subject area.

Types of teaching styles:

There are five main types of teaching styles and methods to choose from.

  • The Authority method, also known as the lecture style, involves sitting and listening to the instructor speak about a pre-assigned topic while the students take notes and memorize to the best of their ability what is being said. This particular style is more popular in universities and some high schools due to a larger student population. However, less common in the standard classroom setting due to its lack of allowance of student participation and inability to meet individual needs. The Authority method, also known as the lecture style, involves sitting and listening to the instructor speak about a pre-assigned topic while the students take notes and memorize to the best of their ability what is being said. This particular style is more popular in universities and some high schools due to a larger student population. However, less common in the standard classroom setting due to its lack of allowance of student participation and inability to meet individual needs.
  • The Demonstrator method, widely known as the coaching style, similar to the lecture style, The Demonstrator method tries to maintain authority in the classroom. Even so, instead of using only a verbal lecture to give information and teach, this style coaches students using gateways like multimedia presentations, class activities and demonstrations. For subjects like music, art, and physical education subjects, this style is perfect because the demonstration is usually necessary to acquire a full understanding of the subject. However, a downside is that there is little individual interaction between the teacher and students which makes it difficult to accommodate to personalized needs.
  • The Facilitator style recognized also as the activity or action method, tries to encourage self-learning through peer-to-teacher learning. In contrast to the lecture style, teachers ask students to question rather than give them the answer. The goal is for students to develop a deeper understanding of the topic by using self-discovery and develop problem-solving skills. This technique is best used in small classroom settings because, as a facilitator, the teacher needs to interact with students on an individual basis, which can be difficult with a larger number of students.
  • The Delegator style, or group method, is used for school subjects that require group work, lab-based learning, or peer feedback. For example, science classes and certain language learning classes. The teacher acts as a delegator, becoming an observer to promote peer collaboration and encourage student-to-student learning. The Delegator style is becoming more and more popular throughout many classrooms. However, some people consider other styles to be more proactive due to the fact that the group method removes the teacher from a position of authority.
  • Last, but not least, the Hybrid method, also known as blended learning, is an integrated teaching style that incorporates personal preferences, individual personalities, and specific interests into their teaching. It’s popular in English, science, and religion classes because it’s easy to incorporate extra-curricular knowledge into a developed, deeper knowledge of a particular topic. Some argue that this style weakens the learning process because the teacher tries to be all things to all students.
Teaching style

Teaching style Inventory

Teaching styles can also be organized into four categories with two parameters each: a teacher-centered approach versus a student-centered approach, and high-tech material use versus low-tech material use.

Teaching Styles: Student-Centered Approach

In a student-centered approach to learning, teachers and students share the focus and interact equally while the teacher still maintains authority. This can be beneficial to students because group work is encouraged; thus, communication and collaboration are used and encouraged. However, due to the fact that students are talking, classrooms may be noisier and may be more difficult to manage.

One method to use is inquiry-based learning which makes the teacher more of a supportive figure (rather than completely authoritative) who can provide support and guidance throughout the learning process. By being an inquiry-based learning facilitator, the teacher and student undergo the learning process together with student learning lightly guided by the teacher. By being the personal model, comparable to the personal model in the direct instruction, the teacher acts as the guide and mentor to help enable students to learn by observation and copying the teacher’s actions. By using the delegator method, teachers act as a support for students, are able to answer questions and most importantly are there to provide a sense of freedom and independence for the student.

Another method commonly used is the cooperative learning style where students work in small groups and the teacher can act as the facilitator, where everyone learns together, or as the delegator, where the teacher gives more free-reign to the student while still pointing them in the right direction.

Teaching Styles: Teacher-Centered Approach

In the teaching styles, especifically the teacher-centered approach to learning, the students put their attention on the teacher, students work alone, and collaboration is prevented. This is great because students are, in theory, quiet and paying full attention to the teacher while being able to make individual decisions. However, a student may suffer in their communication skills and feel unable to ask questions due to the fact they normally work alone and quietly. Plus, this classic method is sometimes thought of as dull and uninteresting.

Direct instruction is a method that uses little technology and relies on lecturing. The teacher may take on the formal authority role, where the teacher is in power due to their senior and level of knowledge over the students. They may also take on the expert role where students can be referred to as “empty vessels” because they are viewed solely as receptors of information and knowledge. The other role a teacher can take on in the direct instruction method is that of a personal model. This method uses the teacher as a model of instruction, to lead by example, and students learn by observation.

Teaching Styles: High-Tech Approach

Many schools and classes are taking advantage of the recent advancements in technology which has enabled us to develop a high-tech approach to learning.

The flipped classroom is a high-tech idea developed in 2007 by two teachers who began to pre-record their lectures which allow students to learn from home by completing assignments to go along with the lectures. This is great if students want to work at their own pace, but if there’s a slow internet connection it’s near impossible to use this method.

Inquiry-based learning can involve technology by asking the students a question about the world and they have to do some research. The findings could be presented in the forms of a website, self-made videos, or PowerPoints.

Based on the man who founded Outward Bound, expeditionary learning is a project-based learning involving expeditions and engagement in in-depth topics that impact their schools, communities, and lives. This was created so students can see how problem-solving is happening in the real world, that is, the world around them. A student in NYC could study statistics about the pollution surrounding them or a student from Alaska could study the snow impact from where they live. G-Suite (Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Drive) is used for this method because it helps students collect and show research in a way that makes it easy for everyone.

Personalized learning is a relatively new style of teaching that, as the name gives away, is all about personalizing the student’s method of learning according to their specific interests and skills. It’s founded on the idea of student self-direction and choice. The assessments are also personalized and quite individual by using a competency-based progression. This means that once a student has mastered a certain skill or subject, they can move on to the next level, regardless of their current grade level. There is also an emphasis on college and career preparation involved because students work on their own, with a mentor (boss) guiding them along. The technology involved is, like the learning itself, quite personalized. However, everyone involved will need to have a certain comfort level with navigating online lessons and programs between the student and instructor.  

Another high-tech learning option is game-based learning which encourages students to develop a “mastery” mindset rather than focus too much on grades. Students develop problem-solving skills by working on accomplishing a specific goal (also known as a learning objective) by choosing actions and different activities and then experimenting with them to achieve the goal. As students progress, they can earn badges and points, as they would in video games. Some of the software that makes game-based learning possible on the teacher’s part is 3DGameLab and Classcraft. Although this style of teaching isn’t completely student-centered, it’s still rather relatively focused on the student because they are able to work at their own pace and make independent choices while still in a gaming environment.

Low-Tech Approach

Some schools or teachers may not enjoy or have the money for high-tech learning and instead, they opt for a low-tech approach to teaching by using a technique called kinesthetic learning. Also known as tactile learning or hands-on learning, kinesthetic learning is a teacher-centered approach that uses the concept of multiple intelligences, the idea that everyone has a strong suit in certain intelligences than in others (i.e. better with words than math). Instead of lectures, students use physical activities to learn. For example, drawing, role-playing, and building. This isn’t as common of a teaching style one might think. However, this teaching style rarely uses technology by putting a stronger emphasis on movement and creativity. Because of this, it’s a cheap and screen-free teaching style.

Another low-tech teaching method is differentiated instruction. Although this is a student-centered teaching style that aims to meet a student’s specific needs, it is mostly implemented by the teacher. Used commonly with students with special needs, differentiated instruction became popular in the United States in 1975 when a law was passed that ensure every child has equal access to an equal education. Some examples of differentiated instruction could include having students read books at their own reading levels or offering different spelling tests to different students depending on their literacy ability. Due to the lack of necessity to use technology and the adaptability of the teaching style, it’s a low-key and traditional teaching style.

Teaching styles crossed referenced PhotoCredit: teach.com

What teaching style is best for today’s students?

As a teacher, it’s difficult to cater to each student’s needs. Constructivist teaching style follows the theory that learning is an active, constructive, and valuable process. It carries with it the idea that people construct their own personal reality and any new information is given is then linked and connected to prior knowledge. Every person will bring with them cultural factors and past experiences to the table. Thus, any mental representation is made personal and individual. The constructivist teaching style assumes that all knowledge is constructed from information given in the past, regardless of how one is taught. It’s important to keep this idea in mind when choosing a teaching style.

Some students might learn better with being an empty vessel and having information, simply processed data, lectured to them. This is a form of passive learning and is commonly used when “teaching to the test,” meaning that the teaching style is structured to pass a certain exam like the ACT, for example.

Proven to be the most effective in a number of ways, an active learning style is best suited for interactive classrooms. That is to say, both the teacher and the student are engaged in the teaching style and learning process which helps the student gain knowledge, information modeled to be useful.

Do you have any fun teaching styles or strategies? What’s your favorite way that you were taught in school? Let us know in the comments below.

Piaget Theory: Childhood cognitive developmental stages

Piaget theory. How can I tell if my child is developing properly for his age? How do children think, and what are the stages of their cognitive development? Is it normal for my daughter to make mistakes when she talks or tries to reason? The Piaget Theory explains the different developmental stages of children. Find out if your child is developing properly for their age. We’ll help you find the answers!

Piaget theory

Piaget is one of the most well-known psychologists of our time because to his discoveries about childhood development and intelligence. Piaget dedicated his life to investigating the different stages of development and to understanding how learning and thought patterns developed throughout childhood, as well as cognitive development. This article explains the Piaget Theory and offers an explanation for the different childhood development stages.

Piaget Theory

The Piaget Theory affirms that children go through specific stages according to their intellect and ability to perceive mature relationships. These childhood stages occur in the same order in all children, across all cultures and backgrounds. However, the age at which the stage comes may vary slightly from child to child.

Piaget theory started out with two main concepts, accommodation, and assimilation.

  • Accommodation is the process of taking new information in one’s environment and altering pre-existing information in order to fit in the new information. This is important because it establishes how people are going to take in new concepts, schemas, knowledge, etc.
  • Assimilation, on the other hand, is how humans perceive and adapt to new information. It is when we are faced with new information but we look the old information we have stored in order to interpret the new one.

Both of these concepts Piaget said were essential and couldn’t exist without the other. To assimilate an object into an existing mental schema, one first needs to take into account or accommodate to the particularities of this object to a certain extent.

Parting from these concepts on how the world is processed, he decided to explore how do children develop cognitively.

It’s quite common for young children to have trouble empathizing as an adult might, and they will likely have egocentric thinking depending on their age and abilities, just like it’s normal for them to make mistakes.

During childhood, children will have a natural cognitive development stage where the child “learns to think”, or interact in the world in which they live. Doing this requires a series of evolutionary changes in the child’s life, marked by stages throughout all of their childhood, from the time they’re born until pre-adolescence. These stages, where certain cognitive abilities will be developed, are known to be divided according to the Piaget stages.

What is the Piaget Theory? Jean Piaget (Swiss psychologist and biologist) conducted a number of studies about childhood, dividing it into stages called Stages. Piaget Theory classifies the stages during the cognitive development of a child into different ages.

Piaget stages are a set of stages in the human development process that occurs in time. For example, the type of language that children use will depend on their age (cooing, made-up words, pseudowords, using the third person, echolalia, etc.), as well as their thinking (self-centered, in that everything happening in the world is happening in front of him or her), or physical skills (mimic, crawling, walking, running, etc.). All of this cognitive process development happens continuously and progressively in the Piaget stages, depending on the approximate age.

Will every developmental stage happen at the exact same time, according to the Piaget Theory?

No, not all children will hit the same stages at exactly the same age, but there are “sensitive periods” for all ages, where it is more probable that a child will develop certain cognitive skills. Developmentally, it is easier to learn a determined skill at a specific age, like learning the beginning of language at about age one and perfecting it at about age 7.

Cognitive development stages in children according to Piaget Theory

Piaget proposed four childhood development stages: 1- Sensorimotor Period (0-2 years), 2- Preoperational Period (2-7 years). 3- Concrete Operational Period (7-11), 4- Formal Operational Period (11 and older, until about 19 years old). We will look at these stages in depth below.

1-Piaget Theory: Sensorimotor Stage (children 0-2)

This developmental stage is characterized by how the child understands the world, bringing together sensory experience with the physical activity. This is the period where the child improves innate reflexes.

  • Children at this age like bright, shiny, moving stimuli with lots of contrast.
  • They construct schemes by trying to repeat an action with their own body, like making noise by hitting their toy, throwing something, or moving a blanket to get something that’s on top of it. At this age, children repeat actions randomly, experimenting with their own bodies.
  • First contact with language: The first time the baby has contact with language is when it is still in the mother’s womb when it starts getting familiar with the parents’ voices. Research shows that during the baby’s first few months of life, they prefer the sound of human voices to any other sound. It’s surprising how used to the language they are since from when the baby is born, they have an exceptional ability to distinguish spoken language. Research from DeCasper and Spence show that children are especially attracted to their mother’s voice, which they can recognize better than the voice of a stranger.
  • How do children age 0-2 years communicate? After a baby is born, its main form of communication is crying, as they’re still not able to produce other sounds. During the first few months of life, their communication will be primarily pre-linguistic, using smiles and crying involuntarily. These actions will later become voluntary when they learn to use them in a communicative manner. However, the parents are able to understand a cry or a smile from their baby, making it an unintentional form of communication. At about 6 months, the baby will learn to babble and make consonant-vocal sounds like “da da da”. The first appearance of words is at about 12 months.

Piaget Theory during this stage establishes six sub-stages that are:

  1. Simple reflexes: From birth to 6 weeks the baby will have three primary reflexes (sucking of objects in the mouth, following moving or interesting objects with the eyes, and closing of the hand when an object makes contact with the palm) As time goes by the reflexes will become voluntary actions.
  2. First habits and primary circular reactions: From 6 weeks to 4 months the child is now starting to be more aware and classical and operant conditioning begins in this phase. Imitation or reproduction of certain reactions with his own body begin.
  3. Secondary circular reactions:  From 4 to 8 months the child starts to develop habits, they are more object-oriented, repeating actions with a purpose that bring pleasurable results. He can now reproduce certain reactions but with external objects.
  4. Coordination of secondary circular reactions: From 8-12 months the child consolidates hand-eye coordination and intentionality. His actions are now goal-oriented.
  5. Tertiary circular reactions, novelty, and curiosity: From 12-18 months, the infant start exploring and investigating objects that intrigue them. It’s the stage of discovery to meet new goals. Piaget called this stage the young scientist.
  6. Internalization of schemas: From 18-24 months the infant can now use primitive symbols to form lasting mental representations. It is when the creativity stage begins and gives passage to the preoperational stage.
Piaget Theory What can we do to promote the cognitive development of the child in the sensory-motor stage (from 0 to 2 years old)?
  1. Boost circular reactions: Have you noticed your baby sucking his thumb? Or the sounds it makes when it wants to sleep? That he/she shakes the rattle and repeats this action over and over again? When a baby repeats the same behavior over and over, we are faced with circular reactions. When a baby shakes his rattle over and over again, it’s because he likes the sound and wants to hear it again. At this point you can, for example, take the rattle and shake it on another surface to make a different sound. This way the baby learns that by modifying the stimulus the sound changes and this will lead to exploring.
  2. Let the baby play and explore different objects and toys: This way the child will explore beyond himself.
  3. From 1.5+ years you can play at hiding objects:  Play Peek-a-boo where you show her a toy/your face/any object and then hide it and “find it again”.  Repeat the procedure but let the child attempt to find it.

2- Piaget Theory- Preoperational Stage (2-7 years-old)

  • This the second stage of Piaget Theory. Schooling generally starts at about 3 years-old, which brings about an important social change and causes significant social development.
  • The child will start relating to other children and people, especially peers. Before this age, the interaction was generally with family.
  • How do children aged 2-7 communicate? While between the ages 3-7 the child will largely expand their vocabulary, they are still guided by an “egocentric thinking”, meaning that the child will think according to their individual experiences, which makes their thinking and thoughts starts, intuitive, and lacking logic. This is why children until the age of about 6 will misunderstand events and will have trouble expressing them.
  • Talking in the third person is very common in this stage because children still don’t fully understand the concept of “I” or “me” that separates them from the rest of the world.
  • Children between 2-7 will be curious and want to learn, which is why they so often as “why”.
  • Children of this stage often give human characteristics or feelings to objects. This is called personification.

“Egocentric” thinking, according to Piaget Theory: Why do children in this stage have such a hard time putting themselves in other people’s position? This may be related to the “Theory of the Mind”, which refers to the ability to put yourself in someone else’s mind or in “someone else’s shoes”. Children won’t be able to do this until about 4-5 years old, which is why until they reach this age, children will think that others think how they do. This theory helps explain why children don’t know how to lie or use irony until about 5 years-old.

Each of these limitations of the pre-logical stage will be overcome at about 6 or 7 years-old, in the next cognitive developmental stage, and will consolidate until about 14 or 15 years-old.

Piaget Theory What can we do to help the cognitive development of the child in the pre-operational stage (from 2 to 7 years old)?
  1. Adjust to your child’s cognitive development: Keep in mind your child’s development stage and adapt to their thinking.
    2. Put symbolic play into practice: Through this activity, many of your children’s skills are developed and they allow them to form an inner picture of the world. Through play you can learn the roles and situations of the world around you: pretend to eat or drink, pretend to drive, pretend to be a doctor and help someone else, etc. You can practice any activity that helps your child expand his or her language, develop empathy, and strengthen his or her mental representations of the world around you.
    3. Encourage exploration and experimentation: Let him discover colors and their classification, tell him how some things happen, plants or animals, convey curiosity to learn.

3- Piaget Theory: Concrete Operational Stage (7-11 years-old)

The second-to-last stage of Piaget Theory is when children start to use logic thinking, but only in concrete situations. It is at this stage that the child will be able to do more difficult and complex tasks that require logic, like math problems. However, while their ability to use logical thinking has advanced, their logic may have certain limitations during this period: the “here and now” will always be easy. Children at this age will still not use abstract thinking. In other words, they will be able to apply their knowledge to a subject that they don’t know, but it’s still difficult at this age.

Piaget considered the concrete stage a major turning point in the child’s cognitive development because it marks the beginning of logical or operational thought. The child is now mature enough to use logical thought or operations but can only apply logic to physical objects. He established a series of operations pertinent to the concrete stage.

Conservation: it is the understanding that something stays the same quantity even though its appearance changes. Watch the following video for examples on how to test conservation.

Classification: It is the ability to identify the properties of categories, to relate categories or classes to one another, and use the categorical information to solve problems.  For example, group objects according to some dimension they share.

Seriation: The ability to mentally arrange items along with a quantifiable dimension, such as height or weight.

Reversibility: The ability to recognize that numbers or objects can be changed and returned to their original condition. For example, during this stage, a child understands that a favorite ball that deflates is not gone but can be filled with air again and put back into play.

Transitivity: The ability to recognize relationships among various things in a serial order. For example, when told to put away his books according to height, the child recognizes that he starts with placing the tallest one on one end of the bookshelf and the shortest one ends up at the other end.

Decentering: The ability to consider multiple aspects of a situation. For example, a child is given the chance to choose between two candies, he chooses one according to his favorite flavor regardless of the fact they were both the same size and color.

Piaget Theory What can we do to help cognitive development in the specific period (7 to 11 years)?
  1. Help strengthen your reversible thinking: Practicing these exercises can help you develop your logical and reasoning skills. Important for the management of numbers and mathematics, but also for the development of their adult life. For example, ask what is the result of adding two numbers together. If the result is 8, we can ask them to help us find two numbers that add up to 8. Reversible thinking can be exercised in almost any situation of everyday life. For example, when you are in the supermarket and you estimate the price of what the purchase will cost you. Or when you do it the other way around, and you estimate how much each food you are about to buy costs to get to you with the money you carry.
    2. Ask him or her to help you answer questions and ask questions: For example, how would you help a lost animal find its owner? How do we keep the food from getting cold? How do we get to Grandma’s house if the car’s in the shop?
    3. Help him understand the relationships between the phenomena that happen in nature or social life: Why do you think your grandfather might be sad if we don’t go to visit him, what do you think will happen if it doesn’t rain this winter?
    4. Strengthens his reasoning capacity: Help him to question concrete facts.
    5. Use validated Brain Games or cognitive stimulation programs for children: CogniFit is the leading program for brain enhancement in childhood. It takes advantage of the great neuroplasticity that happens in the early years of development to stimulate and enhance intellectual performance in childhood and adolescence. The brain exercises proposed by CogniFit consist of attractive therapeutic activities, rehabilitation and learning techniques aimed at helping retrain and improve the cognitive skills. With this program we will also be able to compare the child’s results with those of other children of his or her age. How to start using it? It’s very easy, you just have to register.

4- Piaget Theory: Formal Operational (11 years and older)

  • This last period is characterized by the acquisition of logical reasoning under all circumstances, including abstract reasoning.
  • The new aspect of this last period in relation to intelligence is, as Piaget mentions, the ability to hypothesize about something that they haven’t learned specifically.
  • This is where learning starts to take place as a “whole”, rather than a concrete form like in the previous stage.
Piaget Theory What can we do to help the cognitive development of children and adolescents 11 years and older?
  1. Try to motivate them to ask questions: Use everyday facts and try to get them to reason about the factors that have caused a certain outcome. Help him to consider deductions or hypotheses.
    2. Discuss with the child or adolescent: Try to help him/her express him/herself and explain his/her way of thinking to you when faced with different issues. Expose your way of seeing things and find the positive and negative points of each point of view. You can also address ethical issues.

Developmental theory- Piaget

Piaget Theory: Should you be worried about a delay in your child’s development?

  • First, be patient. It’s true that some periods or stages are more sensitive to learning language, as well as other skills like motor skills, cognitive development, attention, reading, etc., but according to Piaget Theory, you have to keep in mind that it’s a continuous process that may take some child more time to reach, while others hit their milestones ahead of time. Sometimes children will take longer to reach a certain stage, and that’s OK.
  • If, for example, when the child is starting school, the child shows noticeable delays in either communication or another area (playing, learning, trouble fitting in with other kids), you may want to think about bringing them to see a specialist (either a school counselor or pediatrician can give you some answers).
  • If the child doesn’t have any type of developmental or learning problem, if they are delayed, or if they have difficulties in any specific area, it’s important to reinforce skills at home and at school. Remember that a slight delay isn’t a cause for panic, and just because a child takes longer to learn something doesn’t mean that there is any problem. Not following the timeline of Piaget Theory doesn’t mean that the child won’t later develop their cognitive skills properly with the help of support and patience.
  • Remember that a 3-year-old can’t lie (that’s where the saying “kids always tell the truth” comes from), they can only talk about the small part of the world that they know. As such, you have to remember that they’re not adults and that they are learning to develop in a world where they will be more independent in the future.

Piaget Theory of Moral Development

Piaget not only studied children’s developmental stages, he also recognized that cognitive development is closely tied to moral development and was particularly interested in the way children’s thoughts about morality changed over time.

Piaget established that morality is one’s ability to distinguish between wrong and right and to be able to act on this distinction. He established that there are three stages of moral development in children.

Piaget Theory Pre-Moral Stage (0-5 years of age)

In this stage, children have little to no understanding of rules. It’s difficult for them to carry out mental operations, therefore, the behavior is regulated from outside the child, by a parent, caretaker, etc. This stage happens simultaneously with the Sensorimotor and Pre-operational stage.

Piaget Theory Heteronomous Morality Stage/ Moral Realism (5-9 years of age)

In this stage, rules are rigid and are made by adults. Rules will determine what is right and what is wrong. Children in this stage are completely obedient to authority. The rules are inflexible to these children. They also judge how wrong something might be by its immediate consequence or punishment not by intention. Adults tend to feel more comfortable during this stage since the rules are handed down to the children without discussion. This stage happens during the preoperational and concrete operational developmental stages.

Piaget Theory Autonomous Morality/Moral Relativism (10+ years of age)

Here the emphasis is more towards cooperation. Rules are changeable under certain circumstances and with mutual consent. Piaget states that children learn to critically evaluate rules and apply them based on cooperation and respect for others. Different from the previous stage, now the intention is an important concept. They judge how wrong an action might be by the intention of the person and the punishment is adjusted accordingly. They also begin to understand that the difference between right and wrong is not an absolute but instead must take into account changing variables such as context, motivation, abilities, and intentions.

As they grow, children begin to realize that when situations are handled in a manner that seems fair, reasonable, and beneficial to all, it becomes easier for people to accept and honor the decision. This concept of fairness is called reciprocity. They later switch to ideal reciprocity which refers to a type of fairness beyond simple reciprocity and includes a consideration of another person’s best interests and feelings, applying a bit of emotional intelligence.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

It’s the best description of putting yourself in another person’s shoes. According to Piaget, once ideal reciprocity has been reached moral development has been completed.

Piaget Theory, aside from explaining the different stages of development in children, also talks about the magic of children, which their egocentric thinking, their curiosity for the works, and their innocence, which can help us, as adults, reflect and understand how the child sees the world.

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated into English.

References

Hughes, M. (1975). Egocentrism in preschool children. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Edinburgh University.

Rathus, S. A. (2011). Childhood and Adolescence: Voyages in Development. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Santrock, J. W. (2004). Life-Span Development (9th Ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill College.

Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2012). Life-Span Human Development. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Critical Thinking: How to Develop It at Home and at School

What is critical thinking? It’s a way of reasoning and questioning things to help us make better decisions. We’ll explain what critical thinking is and how you can improve it daily. You’ll also learn how to boost a child’s critical thinking at school! Andrea Garcia Cerdan explains below.

Critical thinking

What is critical thinking? It’s the ability to think clearly and rationally, and understand the logical connection between ideas. Critical thinking allows us to think independently and reflexively.

Thinking critically requires the ability to reason and learn actively, not passively. This means taking an active approach to learning information, rather than just letting the information reach you.

People with developed critical thinking skills question ideas and thoughts and don’t take everything they hear as fact. They work to get a rounded view of an argument or idea, research and thinking reasonably about each possibility, and welcome a contradictory view. They don’t see an argument as something negative, but rather a chance to grow and learn.

Characteristics of a critical thinker:

  • Understands the connections between ideas
  • Determines the importance of these ideas
  • Recognizes and creates valid arguments
  • Identifies inconsistencies and reasoning errors
  • Approaches problems consistently and systematically
  • Reflects on their own beliefs, thoughts, and values

Critical thinking is a great decision-making tool, but that doesn’t mean that we always have to think critically because not every decision is important. Think about it: you could think critically about whether you’re going to eat salmon or chicken, but probably not a life-changing decision. When you’re in one of these situations where you have to make a decision, it’s better to be intuitive than critical. You’ll save time and psychological resources that you could be using to solve another problem.

How can you boost critical thinking?

1.Don’t believe everything you hear

The first step to improving your critical thinking skills is to evaluate the information that you receive on a daily basis. Before doing something based on information that someone else told you, do your own research! Think about the problem and what possible solutions may be. Need some help coming up with answers? Maybe you want to improve your creative thinking as well! You have to decide for yourself what you want to do and what you believe is best, and evaluating all of the possibilities is a great way to do that.

2. Define you goals

What do you want to do? What’s your goal? How are you going to make it happen? Knowing what the goal is is an important part of creating a plan to get it done.

3. Research

We’re constantly being bombarded with information which can sometimes be overwhelming, but this constant information can actually help you make better decisions. When you’re faced with a problem or decision that you’re not sure about, look online, ask a forum, read a book, watch a documentary, or get in touch with someone who might be able to help you. Look at different opinions and arguments and look at it from all sides. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be to make a good decision.

4. Don’t assume that you’re always right

Everyone loves being right. It makes us feel like we know everything and can be a mood booster. But thinking that other arguments and ideas aren’t valid closes our eyes to other points of view. Your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs are just one possible solution, but there are other equally valid ideas that you should get to know and respect. Open your mind to other perspectives.

5. Don’t complicate things

There is a line of thinking that’s often used in scientific research when they’re trying to figure out which hypothesis is correct. It’s called Occam’s razor, and it’s the idea that when there is more than one possible answer, go with the simpler one until proven false.

6. Divide the problem into parts

When you’re faced with a difficult problem, try to break it up into smaller, more manageable parts. You’ll find it easier to evaluate and take on each different part of the puzzle on it’s own.

Developing Critical Thinking in the Classroom

One of the most important things that we can teach our children is showing them how to think, argue, research, and make their own ideas and opinions about diverse topics. Learning to do this as children will make it easier to do as adults, when the decisions and topics are more serious and have potentially serious consequences. Learning to how to question things and not believe every word they hear, read, see, etc. will help them make their own decisions in the future.

So, how can we help develop critical thinking skills at school?

1. Group work

Working as a team helps children learn to think. When they’re surrounded by classmates and have to work together to talk about their ideas and thoughts, not only will they be exposed to other ideas, but they’ll have a chance to form their own opinion.

2. Let them use their creativity

Creativity is a skill that we have since birth, but using it more helps us develop and strengthen it. Learning to use creativity to solve problems can help us come up with ideas that we might not have thought of before, which is why it’s so important to use in a classroom. Instead of giving kids instructions to something, let them try to figure out how to do it on their own. Give them space to problem solve and use different theories to get the job done without a specific plan.

3. Don’t run to their aid right away

Children will get used to having things done for them. If they try to do something and ask for help, you might be inclined to solve the problem for them, which will inhibit their ability to problem solve on their own. It’s better to let them struggle and think of the answer on their own rather then run in and save them right away. For example, if they’re having trouble with a math problem, ask them questions to help them figure it out on their own.

4. Have brainstorming sessions

Brainstorming is a great way to help develop critical thinking. It helps the child reason and see different possibilities and points of view. Ask them questions like: “What is the book about? or What do you think you’re going to learn in this chapter?

5. Compare and contrast

A great way to help students learn to think critically is to let them compare and contrast the information that they have available to them. It can be about anything-books, hobbies, favorite x. You can do the same thing with a pro and con list.

6. Ask them questions

Asking questions helps students reflect and apply what they’ve learned to a real situation, which will help them consolidate the information and create an informed response. You can ask things like: “Do you agree with this? Which option do you think is better? Explain why you think this happened. Try to avoid questions with a yes or no answer and make them think and develop a response.

7. Let them debate

Debated are a great tool to help students reflect and thinking about a topic and develop opinions about what they’re learning.

A good way to promote critical thinking is to let each child defend an opinion. Do you think we should have uniforms at school? Break the kids into groups or assign each one a side to take and let them debate.

The video below will give you some more great ideas to improve critical thinking. Check it out!

 

Did we leave you with questions? Leave us a comment below! 🙂

 

This article was originally written in Spanish by Andrea Garcia Cerdan

Development of Cognitive Skills; Piaget’s theory.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run! When it comes to development, this phrase is certainly true. Before children learn to talk and are taught to problem solve at school, right from birth, they begin to develop novel ways of communicating and exploring the world around them. They cry to tell you they’re hungry, and go through a stage where it seems they’re trying to eat everything (I’m sure the parents reading this can relate)! These practices enable babies to make sense of the world. As they get older, their way of exploring rapidly evolves. As well as developing the ability to walk and talk, our development of cognitive skills (memory, attention, language, reading comprehension, fine motor and gross motor skills) are developed throughout our childhood.

French Psychologist Jean Piaget, proposed the development of cognitive skills during childhood occurs in 4 distinct stages. Each stage builds upon the previous one. Piaget’s theory was ground breaking at the time, as it was previously thought that children didn’t develop cognitive skills until they began to acquire language. Piaget challenged this, as he found that children explore the world around them before they acquire language by using their different senses. This is known as the sensorimotor stage, which is one of four stages that classify a child’s learning stages. The other three stages are known as the pre-operational stage, concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage. During each stage, children acquire new cognitive skills, whilst developing skills they have acquired in previous stages.

Cognitive development

Development of Cognitive Skills: Sensorimotor stage

This stage lasts from birth to 2 years.

In this stage, children learn about the world using their senses and manipulating objects. Here a child’s intelligence is based on their motor and sensory knowledge. During this stage, children learn of object permanence, i.e. although a toy is out of sight, it still exists. This information is extremely important as it prepares children to be able to name objects.

3 months– Infants are able to recognise faces and imitate facial expressions (above).

6 months– Infants can imitate sounds, recognise their parents and display fear towards strangers. They understand the difference between animate and inanimate objects. Between four and seven months, children begin to recognise their own name.

9 months– Infants imitate gestures and actions. The understand simple words like ‘no’ and begin to test their parents’ response to their behaviour.

12 months– Infants can follow moving objects. They can speak between two to four simple words like ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. They can imitate animal sounds and begin to display attachments to objects such as a toy or blanket. At this age, they will also begin to display separation anxiety.

18 months– Vocabulary increases to around 50 words. Children begin to identify body parts and display sense of ownership. They can follow simple instructions (e.g. picking up toys and putting them in the box). They begin to show an understanding of discipline and have knowledge of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

Development of Cognitive Skills: Pre-operational stage

This stage lasts from 2 – 7 years.

A child’s vocabulary is around 150 words. Around this time, children learn around 10 new words a day, and begin to understand emotions such as love, trust and fear. Children also begin to learn through pretend play, or “make believe”. However, their view of others and logic isn’t well understood, and children have a self-centered view of the world. In this stage, children begin to use their imaginary and memory skills, and begin to develop their social interaction skills and play cooperatively with children their own age. They will begin to develop their cognitive abilities. Children learn to read, develop routines and display an increased attention span. At the beginning of this stage, children develop their attention, long term and short term memory. As children get older, they learn to control their attention and use their cognitive abilities to help them solve problems and achieve their goals. Also during this stage of development, auditory processing is further refined. This is highly important in improving reading skills.

Imaginative play

Development of Cognitive Skills: Concrete operational stage

This stage is from 7-11 years.

During this stage, children learn to be less egocentric and self centered. They begin to think about the thoughts and feelings of others, and they are more aware of their own thoughts and feelings and the rules around sharing them with others. Children are also able to think in a more logic manner and see the world from the view of others. However, at this stage, a child’s thought is often rigid, therefore they tend to struggle with abstract concepts. Here children learn that things, such as volume and weight, can stay the same despite changes in the appearance of objects. For example, two different glasses can hold the same volume of water. Also, at this stage, children’s attention span begins to increase with age. At the age of six, the child may be able to focus on a task for around 15 minutes. At the age of nine, children can focus on a task for around an hour.

Concrete operational stage

Development of Cognitive Skills: Formal operational stage

This stage is from 11 years and upwards.

Children are able to better understand logic and abstract ideas. They will start to reason and think about abstract ideas, and implement these ideas into their lives. They are also able to see multiple solutions to problems, and begin to look at the world in a scientific manner. During this stage, Adolescents display independent problem-solving skills, and are able to understand abstract ideas such puns, proverbs, metaphors, analogies, philosophy and maths. Children also learn to apply general information to specific situations. During adolescence we undergo cognitive transition, which means that the way we think becomes more advanced, more efficient, and more complex. Thought is no longer limited to what is real, it is expanded to include the hypothetical. During this stage we begin thinking about the process of thinking, known as metacognition. Thought becomes multidimensional; we are able to look at multiple outcomes to a specific problem, which allows us to think rationally and analyze the problem. This will hopefully help us to make well-informed decisions.

Every child will progress through each stage in order, but it’s important to remember that each child is different, so that manner or time that it take a child to develop these skills may vary- and that’s OK! Progression through the 4 stages of development can occur at different rates; some faster than others. We all have a unique cognitive profile, some cognitive skills can be weaker than others. A cognitive assessment can help us to identify which of our cognitive skills are weaker. This enables us to tailor our cognitive training, and improve our weaker skills. If you are looking to strengthen your cognitive skills, why not try some brain games! If you are concerned that about your cognitive abilities or the development of a child, it is important to seek professional advice.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, get in touch below! 🙂

Significant learning: How do we internalize information?

What is significant learning? Learning is an essential part of our lives. We need to constantly acquire new knowledge and put it into practice in order to adapt to the environment. Sometimes it is not enough to retain long lists of data, we must internalize them. Ausubel’s significant learning theory explains how we integrate information into our brain. In this article, we will give you tips on how to learn significantly.

Significant Learning

Significant learning: Definition and characteristics

What is significant learning? To answer this question, we must be clear about what “learning” means. This term does not only involve the knowledge we are taught at school. It involves any lasting changes that we may observe in our behavior or that take place in our minds. Learning is essential in every area of our lives. Understanding and communicating the basics is the key to progress.

Psychologists and other professionals try to develop learning theories to explain how the brain learns. There are several proposals that address this issue from different angles. At present, an attempt is being made to understand this process through brain-based learning. Answers must be sought to provide future generations with better education.

In this article, we will talk about significant learning, which was proposed by the American psychologist David Ausubel. This author is one of the greatest exponents of constructivism. This perspective is based on each person building their own world through their own experiences. Piaget is also one of its most prominent exponents, which profoundly influenced Ausubel.

Ausubel’s significant learning theory states that we add and adapt the new information to our previous knowledge. It is a conscious process. Significant learning is an active process in which the subject is the protagonist.

This type of learning contrasts with rote learning, which is a more passive procedure. This constructivist theory contrasts with other proposals that focus on external influences.

Significant Learning: What do we need?

It is imperative that we have:

  • A cognitive structure: The existing basis with which the latest data interact is of great importance. It is made of the ideas we have, how they relate to each other and their degree of clarity.
  • New materials to learn: They need to be related to our previous knowledge. If it is difficult for us to find a link, we must make an effort to achieve a link that unites the new and previous concepts.
  • Willpower: The most important thing is the willingness of the person to form and structure knowledge. We are in charge of organizing the information in our brain.

Significant learning: Types and examples

Significant learning is used throughout our lives. Learning as machines can help us in specific cases like knowing our telephone number, our ID card or reciting a poem.

If we are interested in a topic, we will have to investigate the subject and retain it in a deeper and more lasting way. In fact, even if we don’t want to be experts, the results will improve if we learn significantly.

1. Feature learning

It is the most basic type of learning. From it comes the others. It consists of connecting meanings with certain notions. For example, it happens when we learn that an instrument that tells us the time is called a “clock”. It is not a simple association between concepts, the person connects them in a meaningful way.

2. Concept Learning

It is based on grouping the different representations into categories. It happens when we discover that although there are different types of clocks, they all have common attributes.

3. Learning statements

This is the most elaborate form of learning. It implies that the meanings of concepts are processed in depth in order to express them in the form of statements. It’s about creating logical connections.

For example, if we are asked everything we know about clocks, we will comment on their definition, uses, classifications, examples, etc. In order to do this task, we must have gone through the two previous types of learning.

Significant learning: Applications

Significant learning in the classroom

Significant child learning is vital for us to acquire new knowledge later on. Throughout our lives, we will find ourselves in a variety of situations where we have to settle new information deeply in our minds to overcome an academic challenge.

It doesn’t matter if we do it in college, for competition or to get a job. The sooner we implement strategies that enable us to learn meaningfully, the better.

Here are some significant classroom learning activities that will allow you to retain information more deeply.

1. Make concept maps

This will clarify and organize our ideas. Visually capturing the new concepts and linking them with others we know is a great way to firmly establish the latest data.

2. Explain the lesson to a friend

If we begin to talk about the topic we are studying to someone else, we take the trouble to structure the information. By answering your questions and looking for examples, our understanding of the subject will improve considerably.

3. Work in teams

Listening to people’s views helps us to better internalize information. Our colleagues will also benefit from our skills. We will discover new methods and data to incorporate into our learning process.

Significant learning in companies and organizations

Any type of institution requires its members to acquire new knowledge. There are completely mechanical jobs. Others imply a flexible way of thinking that adapts to continuous changes. However, in all jobs, you need to learn.

Recently it is difficult to keep up since it develops so fast. The future is uncertain and changing. This context does not imply that our future is negative, but that we must work hard to be efficient and adapt.

Companies and organizations should promote significant learning for their employees. This will encourage the involvement of workers and increase their productivity. Also, if we know what we are learning for and link it with our previous knowledge, we will be more motivated.

Significant learning in everyday life

We continue to learn throughout the life cycle. David Ausubel’s theory can be extrapolated to countless situations. For example, since childhood, we have some knowledge about cooking. We see people preparing food and exchanging recipes. In addition, we know a large number of dishes and know what we like and what we don’t like.

One day we may become independent and have to put everything we know about cooking into practice. We can ask our father to teach us his best tricks. He will see what our level is and act accordingly. In this way, knowledge will be mixed with those we have been learning all our lives.

In everyday life, we have to learn to live harmoniously with our flatmates, to drive in different cities or to behave in a party. The new situations will provide us with new knowledge that will interact with what we already knew about how to act in those circumstances.

Significant learning: Benefits

Ausubel’s significant learning is a simple theory that guides us to improve both education and interpersonal relationships.

  • Improved student-teacher relationship: If the teacher is concerned about knowing and adapting to the student’s knowledge, the student will adopt a more proactive attitude, be more motivated and study better. This may also apply to other contexts, such as family or peer groups. We may all need to teach something to our acquaintances at a certain point in time.
  • Ease the acquisition of new knowledge: It consists of “learning to learn”. It improves our learning habits and our understanding of the world.
  • The information is stored in long-term memory: The connections we create are thus firmly anchored in our cognitive structure. This way we can easily recover them in the future.
  • It’s personal: Each person has gone through previous experiences that affect their way of perceiving reality. This makes it easier for us to be able to form our own associations in an active and meaningful way. However, it requires a more personalized education that requires more time and dedication from educators.

Significant learning vs. rote learning

We all know people who are able to memorize immense lists very quickly without making practically the slightest effort (rote-learning). You may even be one of them. Or maybe you’d love to have that ability. On the other hand, there are people who, after reading a text, know how to summarize it and explain it perfectly, even if they don’t say it with the same words (significant learning). Which is better?

Each type of learning is more appropriate for a particular situation. It depends on the context, each person’s abilities, and motivation. In addition, everyone has had different experiences that have encouraged them to try to retain information in one way or another.

If we want to pass a subject and forget about it forever, we will probably try to memorize its contents as quickly as possible in order to pass the test. Next, we’ll forget about it when we’re done. On the other hand, if we are particularly interested in an issue, we will do our best to deepen it and internalize everything we learn.

These two types of learning are not opposites. They can perfectly complement each other. In fact, in tasks such as learning a country’s history, there are parts that we learn significantly and others that we memorize (such as dates). In most cases, however, it is preferable to learn significantly in order to make further progress.

Significant Learning Tips

1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

This advice is valid for all areas of our life. Healthy habits are fundamental to our mental and physical health. Doing sports, eating well, keeping a regular schedule and getting enough rest will help us learn better. Likewise, contact with nature will help us to disconnect and de-stress from everyday life.

2. Be curious

Amazement is the key to wanting to inquire into why things are happening. If we ask questions and look for answers, we will be able to build new and lasting partnerships in our memory. Reflecting encourages us to learn more and better.

3. Don’t lose motivation

We are not always motivated to learn. Many times we are lazy to learn or read something new that might not contribute to what we need in the moment. However, we never know when the knowledge we get in certain moments might be needed.  we acquired years ago will be phenomenal. Taking a flexible attitude and accepting all tasks as challenges will bring us countless benefits in the long term.

4. Acquire good study habits

If we organize ourselves and have well-established habits, it will less difficult to study or carry out any similar task.

5. Prevents information overload

We have to face a lot of challenges at once every day. Sometimes we sacrifice doing things right for more activities. However, multitasking worsens our performance. It is preferable for us to know what our priorities are, how much time we have to carry them out and act accordingly. If we focus on a single issue and are clear about what we have to do, we will improve our performance.

6. Create your own summaries and outlines

If you are preparing for an exam, significant learning is the key to success. You can underline the most relevant aspects of the text after reading it a couple of times. Afterwards, when you are clear about what is most important, try to make your own notes with the essentials.

Think about what you know about the topic and connect it with the new information. New associations will emerge to help you master the content. You can use color psychology to make your summaries more memorable. In this way, you will be able to link the contents to emotions, keep attention and highlight the essential.

7. Make Examples

If every time you try to learn something you relate it to previous experiences or knowledge, you will make memorable connections. This way you can go from memorizing a concept to visualizing it and knowing how to explain it. Understanding an issue is the basis for meaningful learning.

Look for examples that excite you. You will create associations that go straight to your amygdala, which is a survival-associated part of the brain and is closely related to learning.

8. Take your time

Sometimes, fatigue or lack of time leads us to take the fastest path and avoid focusing on significant learning. With the rush we probably won’t retain the most important things.

If we are really interested in learning something, it is best to look at a time when we are not overwhelmed and to focus all our attention on this issue. We do not always have this option. But if we make an effort, our concentration will increase and we will appreciate it after seeing the results.

9. Rely on technology

Information and communication technologies allow us to improve our attention and keep us motivated to continue learning. New resources are continually being developed that simplify our daily activities and improve our quality of life. More and more means are being used to enable people to interact with them as they develop new skills.

10. Benefit from brain-based learning

CogniFit is the leading cognitive assessment and stimulation tool. Through an entertaining online brain-based platform, it enables both the specialized and general public to learn more about the brain and train cognitive skills such as memory, attention, perception, and reasoning.

If you have any questions or wish to deepen this topic, do not hesitate to comment. Thank you so much for reading this article.

 
This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
 

Learning Styles: What are They, Models and Discussion

Learning Styles. Learning is a massive part of everyone’s life. From childhood to adolescence, we go to school for hours daily to learn about various subjects. Outside of schooling, we continue to learn in everyday life — including how to perform better in the workplace, how to work through interpersonal issues, or how to fix practical household dilemmas. But does everyone learn in the same way? That doesn’t seem to be the case. There is no one-size-fits-all method of learning. To learn and teach most effectively, we must know an individual’s preferred learning styles.

Learning is an important part of life.

Different Learning Styles?

It is often recognized that there are differences in the ways individuals learn. Even at a very young age, a child will prefer certain subjects and teachers over others. They may be excited at their performance on a math assignment, but spend their time in history class doodling. Alternatively, a child may be an enthusiastic art student under the guidance of one teacher, and then lose interest when that teacher is replaced. These are the consequences of a child’s unique learning style.

In the classroom, teachers will notice that students vary remarkably in the pace and manner by which they pick up new ideas and information. This same concept carries into the workplace, where employers notice that employees learn and perform better under different conditions. Conversely, each teacher has their own preferred method of teaching. Each teacher has their particular style and then so does each learner. Problems can occur when teachers and learners don’t match.

Models of Learning Styles

Since the 1970s, researchers have theorized models to describe individual differences in learning. Everyone has a mix of preferred learning styles. These preferences guide the way we learn. They determine the way an individual mentally represents and recalls information. Research shows that different learning styles involve different parts of the brain. Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted model of learning styles. Rather there are dozens of competing models. The most widely recognized model, “The Seven Learning Styles”, as well as David Kolb’s and Neil Fleming’s models are discussed below.

What are the different learning styles?

The Seven Learning Styles

Known simply as “The Seven Learning Styles”, this is the most commonly accepted model of learning styles. It is referenced by researchers and teachers alike. To find out which of the seven learning styles apply to you, fill out this questionnaire. This is an unofficial inventory of the Seven Learning Styles provided by Memletics (care for the pop-ups!). The Seven Learning styles are as follows:

Visual (Spatial)

Visual learners have an ability to perceive the visual. They prefer to learn through pictures and images and are good at spatial understanding (relating to a given space and the relationship of objects within it). They create vivid mental images to remember information and enjoy viewing pictures, videos, maps, and charts.

Skills:

  • Interpreting and manipulating images
  • Drawing and painting
  • Charting and graphing
  • Good sense of direction
  • Creating visual analogies and metaphors
  • Puzzle Building
  • Constructing
  • Designing and fixing objects

Tips:

  • Use images, pictures, and other visuals to learn
  • Pay attention to color, layout, and spatial organization
  • Make use of ‘visual words’ when speaking
  • Use ‘mind maps’ (diagrams used to visually organize information)

Aural (Auditory/Musical)

Aural learners prefer to learn through sounds and music and are able to produce and appreciate music. They tend to think in rhythms and patterns, and are particularly sensitive to sounds in the immediate environment.

Skills:

  • Singing and whistling
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Writing music
  • Recognizing melodies and tonal patterns
  • Understanding rhythm and structure of music

Tips:

  • Use mnemonics, rhyming, and rhythm to memorize new ideas
  • Ambient recordings can increase concentration
  • Music can inspire certain feelings and emotional states. Make use of music to anchor your emotions.

Verbal (Linguistic)

Verbal learners have an ability to use words and language. While many people think in pictures, these learners think in words. They tend to be elegant speakers, with highly developed auditory skills.

Skills:

  • Writing
  • Speaking
  • Explaining
  • Listening
  • Storytelling
  • Persuasion
  • Analyzing language

Tips:

  • Read content aloud, and try to make it dramatic and varied to aid recall
  • Verbal role-playing can aid in understanding concepts
  • Make use of techniques such as assertion and scripting
  • Record your scripts and listen back

Physical (Kinaesthetic)

Physical learners prefer learning with their body and sense of touch. They are adept art controlling their bodies and handling objects. Information is processed by interacting with the space around them. A good sense of balance and hand-eye coordination is common.

Skills:

  • Physical coordination
  • Working with hands
  • Using body language
  • Sports
  • Dancing
  • Acting

Learning tips:

  • Use hands-on activities to learn
  • Describe the physical sensations of an experience with verbs and adverbs
  • Use physical objects as much as possible, including flash cards and miniature models
  • Writing and drawing diagrams may help, as these are physical activities
The Seven Learning Styles is the most popular model. 

Logical (Mathematical)

Logical learners are able to use reason, logic, and numbers. They think in terms of systems, patterns, and concepts. These learners also seek to understand the reasoning or the “why” behind each new concept and like to experiment.

Skills:

  • Categorization
  • Problem solving
  • Complex mathematical calculations
  • Connecting concepts
  • Making logical conclusions from long chains of reasoning
  • Geometry
  • Experimentation

Learning tips:

  • Focus on exploring connections between ideas
  • Make lists of key concepts from material
  • Think in terms of procedures
  • Think in terms of systems
  • Thinking in terms of systems may help you understand the “big picture”
  • Create diagrams that outline entire systems

Social (Interpersonal)

Social learners have an ability to relate to and understand others. These learners are good at sensing the feelings, intentions, and motivations of others.  They are also able to see things from multiple perspectives. These learners are often good at encouraging cooperation, but sometimes their abilities enable them to manipulate others.

Skills:

  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Communication, both verbal and non-verbal
  • Conflict resolution
  • Establishing relations with others
  • Building trust
  • Noticing the feelings, moods, intentions, and motivations of others

Learning tips:

  • Work with others as much as possible
  • Use one-on-one or group roleplaying
  • Share what you have learned with others, including associations and visualizations you have made
  • Learn from others’ practices, associations, and visualizations
  • Learn from others’ mistakes

Solitary (Intrapersonal)

These learners like to introspect and self-reflect. This gives them a keen awareness of their own inner state of being. They understand their own inner desires, motivations, feelings, strengths, and weaknesses.

Skills:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-analysis
  • Evaluating one’s own thoughts and emotions
  • Understanding one’s role in relationships with others

Learning tips:

  • Study in private
  • Try to invest yourself personally in your work
  • Adjust your goals to fit your personal values.  This maximizes motivation.
  • Keep a journal to record thoughts and observations
  • Focus on what you would be feeling or thinking about when you associate or visualize
  • Train your brain cognitively, with training programs such as CogniFit which is a leading company in cognitive brain training programs. You can register here.

David Kolb’s Model of Learning Styles

“Learning is the process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience.” – David A. Kolb

David A. Kolb’s model is outlined his book “Experiential Learning”, published in 1984. In this book, Kolb speaks of a four-stage cycle of learning as well as four independent learning styles. According to Kolb, all four stages of the learning cycle will be engaged in a complete learning process. The four stages are described below.

  1. Concrete Experience – This occurs when a new experience, or a reinterpretation of an existing experience, is encountered.
  2. Reflective Observation – This occurs when the experience is reviewed or reflected upon, with the goal of achieving a consistent understanding.
  3. Abstract Conceptualization – This occurs when a new idea or concept arises from reflection.
  4. Active Experimentation – This occurs when new ideas are applied to the world and the results are observed.

David Kolb’s four learning styles are built upon this four-stage learning cycle.  An individual will naturally prefer one of these styles over the others. This preference is influenced by social and educational environments as well as cognitive structures. Although everyone will occasionally need the stimulus of all four of these learning styles, it is useful to know your personal orientation.

Learning Styles: Diverging

This style corresponds with the first two stages and involves watching and feeling. People who are oriented towards diverging are able to see things from many different perspectives. They gather information by watching rather than doing and use their imagination to solve problems. This means that they are good at brainstorming and other methods of generating ideas. Diverging thinkers tend to have an open mind and broad interests. They tend to be imaginative and emotional and can be talented in the arts.

Learning Styles: Assimilating

This style corresponds with the second and third stages. It involves watching and thinking. People who prefer assimilating have a concise, logical approach to processing information. To them, ideas and concepts are primary, while people and practical applications are secondary. Information should be organized in a clear logical format. Because of their preference for the abstract, these learners tend to prefer reading, lectures, and analyzing concepts.

Learning Styles: Converging

This styles corresponds with the last two stages and involves doing and thinking. These learners strive for practical, “hands-on” solutions. They excel at technical work, finding practical uses for ideas and theories, and are less concerned with the interpersonal. Problem-solving comes most naturally to these learners. They like to experiment with new ideas and find practical applications. This allows for great technical and specialist abilities.

Learning Styles: Accommodating

This style corresponds with the fourth and first stages. It involves doing and feeling. Much like converging learners, accommodating learners are “hands on”.  They rely on intuition rather than logic, and their strength lies in imaginative ability and discussion. “Gut” instinct is primary. They do not shy away from an interpersonal approach, often relying on others for information or analysis. New challenges and experiences excite these learners.

Neil Fleming’s Model of Learning Styles

Dr. Neil Fleming identified four learning styles in the 1980’s. These four styles came to be known as the “VARK” model of learning styles. This model describes the sensory preferences of learning. It is built on earlier notions of sensory processing, such the VAK model. This is perhaps the most straightforward of models. It is simple yet insightful.

  1. Visual – You learn best from images, pictures, symbols, charts, graphs, diagrams and other forms of spatial organization.
  2. Auditory – You learn best from sound, rhythm, music, speaking and listening.
  3. Reading and Writing – You learn best from reading and writing.
  4. Kinesthetic – You learn best from interacting with their physical surroundings, making use of your body and sense of touch.

Learning Styles: A myth?

There has been recent controversy regarding the subject of learning styles. Although the idea has a lot of intuitive appeals, many disagree with it altogether. There are some problems that can be easily identified.

The first is that there is no agreed-upon model for learning styles. Over 70 different models have been identified, including The Seven Learning Styles, David Kolb’s model, Neil Fleming’s model, “right” and “left” brain model, “holistic” vs. “serialist” model, and so on. All of these models have very little research that supports their validity over others — some are merely more popular than others.

The second and most important problem is that there is no research to support the effectiveness of teaching to an individual’s learning style. A major premise of the theory of learning styles is that individuals learn better when the material is matched to their learning style. Unfortunately, studies have shown either no evidence or weak evidence to support this. On the other hand, studies do show that individuals will learn better if they reflect on their own learning style. This alone lends credence to the theory of learning styles. While it may not be useful to teach to individual learning styles, it is useful to reflect on your own preferences.

Some argue that the lack of evidence means that learning styles don’t exist. Many agree that they do exist, but are simply difficult to measure. Regardless of the extent of their validity, it is always interesting to learn more about yourself.

Learning can be daunting. Knowing your preferences will help.

References

Cherry, Kendra. “Are You a Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing, or Tactile Learner?” Verywell, 15 June 2017.
“Learning Styles Explained.” Idpride.
“Learning-Styles-Online.com.” Overview of learning styles, Advanogy.Com, 2017
McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Kolb’s Learning Styles and Experiential Learning Cycle | Simply Psychology, 2010.

Rote Learning: Retaining Information Without Deepening Its Meaning

Do you remember when you learned to multiply? You repeat the same multiplication tables over and over. This is a technique called rote learning. Do you think this is a good learning method? In what cases do you think it can work? Do you often use rote learning? In this article we will delve into the characteristics of rote learning, its advantages and disadvantages, examples and also contrast with other types of learning. In addition, we will give you five tips to memorize.

Rote Learning

What is rote learning?

Learning is based on relatively stable changes in behavior or mind that take place through experience. There are several learning theories dedicated to exploring how our brain learns.

Rote learning is based on mentally retaining data through repetition without processing it carefully. The memorized contents are not understood and no attempt is made to analyze their meaning. It is just mere repetition, enough times until they are retained in our memory.

Memory is one of our basic cognitive processes. It helps us to encode, consolidate and retrieve data later. The interaction between memory and learning is essential both in our education and in all areas of our lives. However, it is also relevant that their relationship helps us process the data properly and progress in our development.

Rote Learning – Features

  • It is the most basic type of learning.
  • It’s mechanical.
  • The contents are arbitrarily related.
  • Retention data are usually stored in short-term memory.
  • The information is easily forgotten.
  • This type of learning is usually discouraged.

Rote learning – Examples

Rote learning in education

Rote learning is used quite a lot in school.  Generally, we remember repeating multiplication tables without understanding what we would do later with this information.

We also learned simple mathematical formulas and as many data related to numbers. However, it is not only used in math but also in other subjects. We used rote learning to learn the countries and their capitals, states, rivers, musical notes, elements of the periodic table, etc.

At university and even in working life, data are still retained without processing them in depth. This type of learning accompanies us throughout all the stages of our life.

Rote learning in everyday life

How did you learn your phone number, your partner’s birthday, your job address, social security number?

Rote learning helps us get throughout life without having to process everything we need at a certain point.

Rote learning

Rote Learning – Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of rote learning:

  • It helps us to retain important data like dates.
  • It’s a quick procedure.
  • It is relatively simple.

Disadvantages of rote learning:

  • It is easily forgotten.
  • It doesn’t allow us to examine the information in depth.
  • It doesn’t motivate us to continue learning data related to what we memorize.

Among students, it is quite common to take an exam relying on rote learning. However, when the question is relatively ambiguous or critical thinking is asked, the security of memorized information begins to fade.

Rote learning Vs Other Learning Types

Every situation requires different types of learning and each person uses their own learning methods.

1. Meaningful learning

Rote learning is closely linked to meaningful learning. David Ausubel was influenced by Piaget and developed the theory of meaningful learning. This theory maintains that we add content to the information we had previously. We adapt the data so that we can rank it and it can make sense for us.

Ausubel was a constructivist, this implies that he considered we are responsible for building our own reality and for our learning process. Meaningful learning contrasts sharply with memory, as it encourages people to learn, analyze and transform information to get new ideas.

Are rote learning and meaningful learning compatible?

We can imagine learning as a continuum at the ends of which are rote learning and meaningful learning on opposite sides. That is, it is possible to retain data using strategies relating to both types of procedures.

We can also consider rote learning as part of meaningful learning. In fact, both procedures can be complementary. Memory plays a vital role in learning. Even so, it is advisable to memorize the contents while trying to understand them.

For example, if we are trying to study US History, we are conscientiously reviewing each chapter and connecting it with experiences of our daily life, however, we will also need to memorize relevant dates to understand the historical context of the facts.

2. Associative learning

When this process occurs, we establish connections between two distinct stimuli. For example, it happens when we associate a certain smell with a certain person and we remember them every time we perceive a similar aroma.

3. Observational learning

Bandura’s theory of social learning explains how we acquire certain knowledge or behaviors through the situations we see. Still, he insists we are not robots. For example, if we live with people who speak very loudly, it is likely that we will also raise our voice.

4. Receptive learning

This type of learning is also passive, but it is not just about memorizing, it involves understanding the new information. A very common example is in classrooms when students simply listen to the teacher. Subsequently, the students reproduce the contents in the exam without internalizing their ideas or analyzing them personally.

5. Emotional learning

It is the one that helps us throughout our lives to understand and manage our own emotions. We practice emotional intelligence in situations such as patiently listening to a friend’s dilemmas or communicating how we feel at a given moment.

Rote Learning: 5 Tips to Memorize

Although it is advisable to acquire the necessary tools to know how to connect later the contents we learn with new ones, we can also benefit from rote learning for tasks such as remembering the names of our new co-workers. Find out five recommendations here to use rote learning effectively.

1. Organize information in blocks

George Miller, a cognitive psychologist, published an article called “The Magic Number Seven Plus Two” that dealt with the breadth of our short-term memory. 

According to Miller, we can retain five to nine data without grouping them together. On the other hand, if we divide them into groups (chunking), our ability to work with these elements will increase. For example, if we want to remember the list of purchases, we will find it useful to divide it into fruits, vegetables, cleaning products, etc.

2. Use mnemonic rules

The Loci Method is the oldest known mnemonic technique. It consists in associating visually the elements that we wish to remember to certain places. For example, if you want to remember what to have to say during a presentation, you can associate each part with a portion of your journey to work, and recite them. This way you will not forget the order and can relate to images you see constantly.

However, there are different modalities of mnemonic rules. It is also possible and useful to invent new words with the initials of the words we want to remember, to associate songs with sentences, etc.

3. Try to repeat out loud without making mistakes

Imagine your goal is to learn your new class schedule. Read the data you want to remember out loud as often as you need to. When you feel ready try to say it calmly.

Take it slowly and repeat them as many times as you need to since this is a matter of practice. 

4. Use color psychology

Each color transmits certain sensations and is commonly associated with very characteristic meanings. For example, red alerts us and reminds us of blood, love or suspense. On the other hand, white evokes tranquility, peace, and perfection (in our culture). You can take advantage of concepts related to colors to link them to the content that interests you.

5. Uses CogniFit

Neuroeducation is allowing amazing strides to be made in the field of learning. We can now benefit from clinical assessment tools and cognitive stimulation with which it is possible to easily detect our strengths and weaknesses at the cognitive level.

In fact, CogniFit is a leader in this field. It is an online platform that allows us to train our memory and other cognitive skills through entertaining and useful mental games. Challenge yourself, improve and train your memory!

Rote Learning

Thank you very much for reading this article. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment below.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz Aldana, translated by Alejandra Salazar. 

Evaluative Conditioning: The How and Why of Forming Opinions without Facts.

Have you ever wondered why we judge a book by its cover? Here, you will read about how and why we form first opinions without evidence and pass judgment on things we barely know. A process termed evaluative conditioning tries to give an explanation on why the book with the beautiful cover is nicely written.

Evaluative Conditioning: Why we judge a book by its cover.

Every day, each of us is exposed to several different, and often new, experiences. This is inevitable in a world as dynamic and diverse as ours. A new shop opened three blocks down the road, Katie has a new boyfriend and your favorite musician just released his new album. Sometimes, we then catch ourselves judging things we barely know and giving opinions on matters we scarcely heard of. I’m sure that new shop won’t last much longer than the previous one, Katie’s boyfriend is most likely a handsome lad and the new album? Well, that’s undoubtedly going to be terrific! However, are our predictions true? And on what ground do we so confidently exclaim what arguably has no basis? These questions are of importance for both psychological and industrial research. How we evaluate our surrounding influences our behavior towards it. That said, whoever understands its underlying mechanisms and manages to willingly direct them could, in turn, manipulate a patient into ceasing ill behavior or a client into buying a certain product.

Classical conditioning: learning based on experience

Classical Conditioning: also known as Pavlovian conditioning

One mechanism of interest was termed evaluative conditioning. It was named in accordance to the previously established classical conditioning. The latter, famous for its initial experiments by Pavlov featuring dog salivation, describes a learning process that creates expectations based on reoccurring patterns. If a situation is always followed by the same event, just experiencing the first will be enough to foretell that the other will also set in.

So, for example, when you see the signaling light of a car’s left blinker, you automatically expect it to take a left turn. This is the natural sequence of events, as we have learned to know it: blinking light then turning the car.

Classical conditioning

First empirical research on this dogma was conducted on dogs. Each time they were fed, the same ringing noise of a bell would precede the serving of their food. At first, the dogs would happily welcome the meal, spittle flowing into their mouth once the food was presented to them. Then, after some time, the saliva would start dripping just by the mere sound of the bell. Over time, the dogs had learned that when the bell starts ringing, food will soon follow. Formally, the ringing of the bell was categorized as a conditioned stimulus (CS), while the serving of food was described as an unconditioned stimulus (US). Thereafter, it was concluded that the process termed classical conditioning occurs when one stimulus, an unconditioned stimulus, is reliably preceded by another stimulus, a neutral stimulus. The meaning of the latter unconditioned stimulus is applied to the neutral stimulus. Once the association is set, the neutral stimulus is termed conditioned stimulus, as it triggers the same reaction pattern as the unconditioned one. If we apply this to our example with the car, then the blinking light would be the conditioned stimulus, while the subsequent turning would be the unconditioned. Furthermore, the blinkers would be meaningless unless they were to reliably indicate the turning of the car.

Afterward, several studies were conducted on classical conditioning elucidating its properties. As turns out, the stimuli do not have to co-occur every time, just frequent enough. Furthermore, the required rate depends on the nature of the stimuli, as some can be stronger indicators than others. The research was also conducted on the stability of the effect. Here, it was shown that once the stimuli reliably stop cooccurring, the association ceases to exist. From that point onwards, the conditioned stimulus returns to being a neutral stimulus.

Evaluative conditioning: opinions based on experience

Evaluative Conditioning

While the basis of evaluative conditioning is found in classical conditioning, its roots dig deeper. It emerged from research on attitudes. As it became clear that evaluative conditioning could be one mechanism influencing the formation and change of attitudes, a research field of its own was established. Evaluative conditioning follows similar rules to classical conditioning, as both have an unconditioned and a conditioned stimulus. Here, however, one event is not followed by the other, but both occur at the same time. Also, instead of predicting an immediate event and preparing the appropriate reaction to it, a long-term influence is predicted and the appropriate stance towards it chosen.

Opinions influence behavior

It goes like this: the rating of something on a two-dimensional scale (such as good and bad, likes and dislikes), officially called valence, influences the behavior towards it. You approach something you like and distance yourself from something you do not like. Hereby, imminent harmful or even life-threatening events must be disregarded, as a defense, and self-preserving mechanisms would influence behavior in ways beyond just attitudes. You approach or distance yourself from something that may have a long-term positive or negative influence on you. You recently got to know Thomas, however, you do not like Thomas. He has opinions you disagree with. Although he does nothing harmful, you guess that he would still be a “bad” influence on you. Therefore, you try to distance yourself from him. (Sorry to all Thomas’, it is just an example, please do not take it personally.)

Baseless assumptions?

If then an unknown factor appears together with an already judged factor, the process called evaluative conditioning uses the assessment of the known one to predict the long-term influence of the new event. In other words, this is a mechanism that uses the categorization of a known target to sort a somehow connected but still unknown target into the same subjective two-dimensional scale (e.g. good and bad, like and dislike).

For ease of comparison, the events were similarly named to those of classical conditioning. First, we have an unconditioned stimulus which is either positively or negatively valenced. Then, we have the conditioned stimulus with a neutral valence, or at least a lesser valence, than that of its unconditioned counterpart. When both stimuli are then viewed together, seemingly connected to each other, the opinion of the unconditioned stimulus is then applied to the conditioned one.

Sorry Thomas, but to keep to our example: if this previously mentioned Thomas appears with a friend of his, you will most likely be not too keen on getting to know this new fellow. He will probably have a similar conviction to the one you disagree with and would, therefore, be the same “bad” influence as Thomas. Thus, he is just as unlikable as his friend. Hereby, a cognitive association between Thomas and this stranger was created that categorized the unknown person similarly to the known Thomas, thereby triggering a distancing stance towards the new subject. It goes without saying that we have no factual evidence of this newly met person to be as “bad” as the first, furthermore we do not know for certain if Thomas would influence us in a wrong way.

Properties of evaluative conditioning

It seems that the attitude adopted is always that of the more extreme opinion. To clarify, if a slightly negative and a strongly positive viewed stimulus appear together, the slightly negative will surely be judged more positively upon that. If your best friend Rebecca suddenly introduces you to an acquaintance of hers, surprisingly the same stranger you saw earlier chatting with Thomas in a friendly manner, then you will probably change your mind and give him a chance. Rebecca is awesome, no chance in hell that this guy could be a disappointment. Sure, he seemed friendly with Thomas earlier, but if he is with Rebecca, then he will be all right.

However, it should be noted, especially regarding our example with poor Thomas, that it is still under debate whether this change of valence occurs consciously or subconsciously, or if it even could be prevented through conscious knowledge. Even more, no hard evidence was presented on how we were to judge a positive or negative conditioned stimulus after several presentations with neutral stimuli. Unfortunately, some studies showed that after repeated co-occurrence the formerly conditioned stimulus turns neutral again, while other showed that the valence evaluation resists this so-called extinction phase. At last, the timing seems to play a role in the process. It was shown that evaluative conditioning works best when both stimuli appear at the same time. Nonetheless, if the conditioned stimulus is presented shortly before or after the unconditioned stimulus, the conditioning can still take place.

Implications of evaluative conditioning

Evaluative Conditioning

Knowledge about opinion formation and their change is a serious topic and like many others must be approached with responsibility. Private companies are most likely already conducting research in the field, as efficiently associating a product with something pleasant could greatly boost their sales. There are two main problems with this:

  1. First, these findings would not be accessible to neither the public nor other researchers.
  2. The second problem we face is that its properties are not fully understood. This means that whoever uncovers them could influence the public without a specialist’s notice.

For example, if it were to turn out that evaluative conditioning functions only subconsciously, commercials would be viewed while the tv-program is running, instead of in-between, or products would appear more often in the background of a movie. These changes would seem insignificant to the eyes of an unknowledgeable observer, while actually heavily influencing sales. That said, research funds must be invested into topics such as opinion formation, thereby preventing their abuse for personal gain (as a possible propaganda tool, for instance) while utilizing their enormous potential.

Think of the benefit for health care. Unhealthy behavior (such as certain addictions) could be cured or productivity and motivation increased through according to associations. So, if someone had a horrifying phobia that impeded his life’s quality, for example, the poor botanist Steven with his sudden fear of spiders after an unfortunate vacation, simple associations with strongly positive topics could hastily cure his unpleasant situation. Or, as media addiction is a seemingly increasing problem among our youths, this knowledge could be used to reintroduce the fun of the real-life through gradually improving the attitude towards real experiences. Furthermore, these findings could bear a countermeasure against prejudice, that would benefit the whole of humanity.

Nonetheless, we have a long way ahead of us until then. The current findings can be contradicting and confusing. Most of the research was done on humans which bears certain risks such as demand awareness, among others. Demand awareness can create artificial results due to the test subjects suspecting what results are looked for and reacting accordingly. It should be noted that findings from other research fields suggest that animals also like and dislike, just as us, and have ways of expressing these feelings. I would suggest an additional approach through animal experiments. This would extinguish some of the risks, while at the same time rendering the results more comparable to other experiments on evaluative conditioning and classical conditioning. However, we must acknowledge the research done on the topic and encourage the researchers to keep up their work, stay creative and not give up when all seems to play out differently. The first step to shorten the distance to the above-mentioned vision and prevent abuse of important findings is to create awareness of this field so that more researchers are acknowledged funds to look further into evaluative conditioning.

Check out the following articles to get further knowledge on the topic and give credit to the diligent men and women who worked hard for this knowledge:

References

Bethell, E. J. (2015). A “how-to” guide for designing judgment bias studies to assess captive animal welfare. Journal of applied animal welfare science, 18 Suppl 1, S18-42. doi:10.1080/10888705.2015.1075833

Bohner, G., & Dickel, N. (2011). Attitudes and attitude change. Annual review of psychology, 62, 391–417. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.121208.131609

Davey, G. C. (1994). Is evaluative conditioning a qualitatively distinct form of classical conditioning? Behavior research and therapy, 32(3), 291–299.

De Houwer, J., Thomas, S., & Baeyens, F. (2001). Association learning of likes and dislikes: A review of 25 years of research on human evaluative conditioning. Psychological bulletin, 127(6), 853–869. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.127.6.853

Field, A. P. (2000). Evaluative conditioning is pavlovian conditioning: Issues of definition, measurement, and the theoretical importance of contingency awareness. Consciousness and cognition, 9(1), 41–49. doi:10.1006/ccog.1999.0412

Gawronski, B., & Bodenhausen, G. V. (2006). Associative and propositional processes in evaluation: An integrative review of implicit and explicit attitude change. Psychological bulletin, 132(5), 692–731. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.132.5.692

Havermans, R. C., & Jansen, A. (2007). Evaluative conditioning: A review and a model. Netherlands journal of psychology, 63(2), 31–41. doi:10.1007/BF03061060

Rozin, P., Wrzesniewski, A., & Byrnes, D. (1998). The elusiveness of evaluative conditioning. Learning and motivation, 29(4), 397–415. doi:10.1006/lmot.1998.1012

 

Motor Memory: Why You Never Forget How to Ride a Bike

Motor memory is the result of motor learning, which involves developing new muscular coordination. This allows us to recall motor coordination we have learned in order for us to interact with the environment. Playing the piano, catching a ball, and riding a bike are all examples of motor memory. These activities are also examples of things that are rather hard to forget how to do. How is this true? What makes our muscles able to remember so well?

Motor memory- Like riding a bike

Motor Memory: Types of Memory

Motor memory, like any form of memory, has a short and a long-term component. Short-term motor memory is very similar to that of verbal short-term memory in general concept but different in where it is stored in the brain and other aspects.

Short-term memory only encompasses the temporary stage of memory storage. In order to store memories for longer periods of time, repetition of the task must be done to move the memory from short-term to long-term memory. In long-term memory, especially when looking at the typical or “non-motor” memory, the information stored does not include specifics as time goes on. The information is rather stored with the big ideas of the memory and small details ultimately fall away.

Motor Memory: The Muscles (almost) Never Forget

The examples given earlier of playing piano, catching a ball, and riding a bike are all great ways to look at how durable long-term motor memory is. This is due to where in the brain motor memory is stored. Let’s look at the difference between short-term motor memory first and long-term first.

If you need to brush up on brain anatomy, take a look at this other CogniFit article!

Areas of the Brain Related to Motor Memory

Traditional information or episodic memory ultimately ends up in the cerebral cortex, but its journey begins in the hippocampus. This is not the same for motor memory. In fact, it begins its journey in the cerebral cortex. Purkinje neurons located in the cerebral cortex are the source of short-term motor memory. The type of neuron is important to understand because they transmit signals to the cerebellum, the area of the brain that governs movement.

These specialized Purkinje neurons are also important in converting short-term memory into long-term memory. This is because actions rehearsed in short-term memory eventually consolidate and are “moved” into long-term memory. Long-term memory is a bit harder to pin down to one specific area of the brain. A lot of research is currently being done in order to understand how the signals flowing out of the cerebellum to impact rehearsed coordinated movement. Most of the research is leaning towards the work of many interneurons working together. Interneurons are neurons that just transport signals to other neurons, most commonly observed in a reflex response. It is hypothesized that the interneurons lay out a ground map for movement signals to follow when an individual is introduced to a familiar external stimulus.

Motor memory

Motor memory: Remembering to Ride a Bike

All that time spent on as a kid on sidewalks, driveways, and cul-de-sacs with training wheels on your bike allowed for your brain to begin building and assigning interneuron pathways for your cerebellum to outflow muscle information to your legs. The general gross motor movements were different than walking, and your body needed to acclimate to the new challenge.

The first day you sat on your bike it was hard and awkward, and the second day was probably not much better. However, by the end of the week, you were most likely zooming all around your neighborhood. This is because the rate at which short-term motor memory transfers to long-term motor memory is extremely fast. A few days is the longest amount of time that this transfer usually occurs. This is far faster than typical memory being consolidated within at least a week.

However, if you were to hang up your bicycle for a few years and then take it down for a quick spin you would not forget how to ride it. You may feel wobbly, and a bit uneasy, but your brain and body quickly make corrections associated with balance, also governed by the cerebellum, in order to keep you upright and moving. Those slight adjustments are the work of your short-term motor memory impacting your long term memory.

Motor memory: Memory of Playing the Piano

Remembering to play the piano, or any musical instrument that requires dexterity is also similar to remembering how to ride a bike. Although, with music, there is a non-motor memory component: how the piece sounds.

Sitting down at a piano might not conjure up that specific Bach concerto you spend months working through, but allowing your hands to run up and down the familiar keys will allow you to remember the piece or the composer. Music and sound has a very distinct impact on our memory and hearing how something sounds often works in a cyclical fashion to make the hands move more smoothly across the keys. However, just the like the bike example, it will take time in order to gain speed when playing.

Motor memory: Remembering to Catch a Ball

Unlike the other two examples, catching a ball is a better example of short-term motor memory. The overall outline of how to catch a ball remains the same, thanks to your long-term motor memory. However, your short-term motor memory is what allows you to process how the other person is throwing you the ball. This is equally true with how you are throwing the ball back. Perhaps you misjudged how far away you were from one another. Within a few throws, you will be able to throw consistently to each other, as well as understand how to catch a “trickier” or unexpected throw. The speed at which you are able to do this is evidence of how well your brain and muscles communicate.

Motor memory

Motor Memory and Age

In many neurodegenerative diseases, memory is greatly impacted. Many early symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease include loss of motor memory. In these cases, motor decline is coupled with cognitive processes decline, which suggests that the two are related.

New emerging therapies and treatments for Alzheimer’s patients include a physical exercises component. Exercise releases a handful of neurotransmitters (types of neurotransmitters) in relatively high doses, and this increase in neurotransmitter activity in the brain could be what makes this treatment beneficial. Dopamine has a high number of receptors in the cerebellum, which governs motor control. The increase in dopamine in that area of the brain during exercise could reinforce the motor memory map laid out by interneurons extending from the cerebellum. This alternative to pharmaceutical intervention may even help us further understand why long-term and short-term motor memory differ from our typical memory schematic.

Have any questions? Leave me a comment below!

Intrinsic Motivation: When You Love Doing What You’re Doing

What drives us to join a dance class or paint a picture? What makes some people choose a certain career path knowing that their economic stability will be challenged? What is it that gives us the energy to strive to reach our goals? The leading force behind all of these decisions is intrinsic motivation. In this article, we’ll talk about how to stay strong and meet your goals when you’re faced with challenges.

Intrinsic motivation

What is intrinsic motivation?

Motivation is a psychological process that helps us carry out and complete determined actions. We can be motivated to do anything, from taking a nap to running from danger. Motivation makes it possible to better adapt to the challenges and situations that we face on a daily basis.

The causes behind motivational processes vary significantly from person to person, and can even change for a single person depending on the circumstances. It’s possible to distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation depending on the reasons behind the action.

Intrinsic motivation comes from the inside and happens when you are truly interested in something, without seeking a reward in return. One example of intrinsic motivation may be working at or spending time volunteering at an NGO, knowing that you won’t receive any type of economic compensation.

Extrinsic motivation, however, is driven by the rewards or benefits that we receive in exchange (or avoiding a punishment) for doing something. Think about when someone works extra hard to get a raise at work. In this case, they aren’t working hard for an internal desire to succeed, but rather to receive an economic benefit. There are a number of differences between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, but the main difference is the expectation of receiving benefits or avoiding punishment.

The same task or action can be extrinsically motivated for some and intrinsically motivated for others. For example, there are some people who go to the gym to get something out of it: to lose weight, while others work out for the exercise itself.

This article will focus on intrinsic motivation. Find out its essential aspects and how to improve it.

Intrinsic motivation: Characteristics

  • You can influence intrinsic motivation: You may find that sometimes it’s hard to figure out what challenges will help you get the most from yourself. However, there is always time to find activities that pique your interest.
  • Rewards can make intrinsic motivation disappear: It’s been shown in a number of experiments and cultures that paying for certain tasks may cause a decrease in performance. How can this be possible? According to the theory of overjustification, interest in a job decreases if we are rewarded extrinsically. For example, if you like to draw and you are paid for your word as an illustrator, you may find that your passion starts to feel like an obligation.
  • There are also rewards that strengthen intrinsic motivation: What we said in the previous point is true (reward can have a negative effect on motivation), it’s also true that receiving gratification from people we care about can help strengthen motivation.
  • The difficult of a task affects intrinsic motivation: Challenges teach us to be perseverant and develop our skills as well as possible.We need to be able to believe that it’s possible to overcome any challenge that we’re presented with. On the other hand, tasks that are too easy will be boring and might not be interesting to us. Once you find the perfect balance, you can enjoy the task and get “into the swing of things”, as Csikszentmihalyi says (we’ll talk more about him in the last section).

Intrinsic Motivation: Application and Examples

Intrinsic motivation at schools

Learning, especially at school, is made up of a variety of subjects, some of which may seem more interesting than others. Facing these more challenging subjects can be difficult, and even the subjects that you like can make you feel unmotivated sometimes. What can you do you keep yourself from feeling this lack of motivation?

First, it’s important to reinforce good, productive behavior and reward studying and other activities that are beneficial to learning. Rather than threats and punishment, using positive reinforcement will help associate studying with positive experiences, helping to improve motivation. It’s important to try to make learning a fun activity, rather than a means to an end. The importance of motivation in learning is endless.

It’s easier to learn effectively if you value what you’re learning, spark a curiosity for the information, create good study habits, connect to the content, and find a way to make it relevant to your daily life.

Intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation at work

Intrinsic motivation at work is one of the keys to success in a work environment. We all know the familiar sensation of watching the clock move minute by minute until you can finally start the weekend. However, you’ve probably also realized that when this happens, your productivity drops and you have poorer results. These situations can make you feel even less motivated to work.

Having the job of your dreams may not be as easy as you thought, but luckily there are ways to help you become more motivated at work like taking breaks, being friendly with co-workers, keeping yourself from falling into a rut, and changing up your daily tasks.

Taking some time to dedicate to altruistic activities or activities that help others and not yourself, can also improve motivation in the office. Corporate social responsibility can benefit not only those who are receiving the direct benefits but also those who offer the help.

There are other techniques that many companies use to improve motivation among their workers, like giving them an opportunity to develop personal projects, paying for educational or advancement opportunities, and recognizing a job well-done. Happy, smiling workers are more productive and useful than employees who race out the door at the end of the day.

Intrinsic motivation in daily life

There are a number of situations that we come across in our daily lives that we could do easier and better if we had intrinsic motivation. For example, maybe you would spend more time cooking and creating healthy masterpieces if you enjoyed it, rather than cooking just to eat the next day.

Personal relationships also play a large role in our intrinsic motivation. Creating bonds with other people motivates us to take up new activities or do something you’ve never done. Going out with friends to eat or see a movie are powerful motivators that will help you get to an art exhibit or other show that you’ve never seen before.

Intrinsic motivation: Benefits

  • Improves productivity: Intrinsic motivation helps us have more original ideas and be more creative in our decision making. Because of this, we tend to get less tired when working on tasks with a positive attitude.
  • Improves well-being: Knowing which activities makes you happy means that you can spend more time doing them, rather than doing something that you dread. Working on tasks that you enjoy can become an endless fountain of personal and professional satisfaction.
  • Raises self-esteem and self-efficiency: The amount of effort that you spend on tasks that motivated you are usually reinforced by significant progress and can make you feel competent and satisfied with your work. Who doesn’t like seeing progress being made on their work?
  • Makes you more independent: Intrinsic motivation pushes you to learn more about the areas and activities that you enjoy and are interested in, which means working without anyone telling you to and taking initiative when starting something new.
  • It’s longer lasting than extrinsic motivation: It’s common for motivation to subside once you’ve reached your initial goal. If your motivation extrinsic, you might not feel the need to continue working hard after you finish your last final. However, if you actually enjoy learning the material, you’ll be able to get more out of every class, even when your exams have finished for the semester.

All this talk of intrinsic motivation shouldn’t overlook the importance of extrinsic motivation! For example, a company can’t lower the wages of its employees because they would probably find work elsewhere.

It’s also possible to have both types of motivation. You can start an activity like yoga with the hopes of feeling more relaxed and less anxious, but end up going because you really love it. The best way to achieve this is to stay away from making external or separate rewards your main goal.

How can you develop intrinsic motivation? 5 tips

1. Avoid routine

Monotony causes boredom and can make you tired and lazy. For example, if you like to go running in the morning to wake up and get ready for the day, try to take a new route and explore the area! Adding an extra challenge can help keep you interested in running (not to mention that it’s a great way to train your brain in the city! -along with brain games, of course-)

2. Keep a positive attitude

It’s important to work to reach your goals without putting too much pressure on yourself to be the best. Trusting yourself is crucial to your overall wellbeing. It is also important remember that the key to intrinsic motivation is enjoying the activity itself, not the potential outcome that it may bring. Try to do what you need to do without any negativity or pressure.

3. Set realistic goals

Trying to reach unrealistic goals will end up being counterproductive and can cause you to lose your intrinsic motivation. Be critical of your goals and evaluate whether or not is a realistic goal that you’ll be able to accomplish. It’s better to focus on what you can improve and activities that will help you improve than to get stuck on things that went wrong.

4. Reward yourself

We’ve already said that intrinsic motivation isn’t about the rewards, but recognizing when you’ve done a good job and letting yourself feel good about it is essential to continuing to have the intrinsic motivation that allowed you to get there. You can even think about indulging every once in awhile as a little reward.

5. Spend time with like-minded people

If you love dancing, find a group of friends who you can dance with and make new choreography. It’s important to share your experiences with other people who enjoy the same activities. Luckily, we live in a time where it’s easy to find groups for any type of activity.

Intrinsic Motivation: Authors

-Abraham Maslow

Maslow is one of the most relevant theories when it comes to motivation. This humanist psychologist is especially known for having created Maslow’s Pyramid that provides a hierarchy of human needs. Intrinsic motivation is particularly linked to the top of the pyramid, based on the necessities of self-realization. This is where we are able to reach maximum existence and develop our potential.

Albert Bandura

This psychologist created the theory of self-efficacy, which is the idea that a person’s opinion about the execution of a task depends on their expectations of success, perseverance, and how much they dedicate to it. For example, if you see that after spending time and working to improve, your Spanish or French improves, you’ll feel proud and able to perfect the language at some point.

Eduard Deci and Richard Ryan

These two psychologists worked together to create the theory of self-determination, which is the idea that we do activities that we enjoy, rather than those that we don’t enjoy and aren’t interested in. This theory is especially relevant and applied to athletics. It is important to be independent when making decisions.

-Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

This specialist in positive psychology is dedicated to studying the state of flow that takes place when we focus on a task that is neither too easy nor too difficult. In these situations, you tend to lose the sense of time and can spend hours on a single task. A common example of this is when a painter is completely absorbed in their work and they lose track of time.

Csikszentmihalyi is an expert in creativity and has interviewed a number of experts in order to better understand their flow. In this video, he will explain part of his discoveries and the importance of intrinsic motivation.

Thanks for writing! If you have any questions, leave me a comment below 🙂

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated to English.

Brain changes in kids learning math

Brain changes in kids learning math

Many kids ask their math teacher why learning a particular mathematical concept or skill is important. When helping kids out with their homework, many parents may wonder the same thing. Now scientists are unraveling the earliest building blocks of math — and what children know about numbers as they begin elementary school seems to play a big role in how well they do everyday calculations later on.

The findings from the National Institutes of Health have specialists considering steps that parents might take to spur math abilities, just like they do to try to raise a good reader. This is not only about trying to improve the nation’s math scores and attract kids to become engineers. It is far more basic, such as how rapidly can you calculate a tip? Do the fractions to double a recipe? Know how many quarters and dimes the cashier should hand back as your change?

About 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. lacks the math competence expected of a middle-schooler, meaning they have trouble with those ordinary tasks and are not qualified for many of today’s jobs. “Experience really does matter,” said Dr. Kathy Mann Koepke of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research.

Healthy children start making that switch between counting to what is called fact retrieval when they are 8 years old to 9 years old, when they are still working on fundamental addition and subtraction. How well kids make that shift to memory-based problem-solving is known to predict their ultimate math achievement. Those who fall behind “are impairing or slowing down their math learning later on,” Mann Koepke says.

But why do some kids make the transition easier than others? To start finding out, Stanford University researchers first peeked into the brains of 28 children as they solved a series of simple addition problems inside a brain-scanning MRI machine.

Kids from seven to nine years old saw a calculation flash on a screen (e.g. 3+4=7) and pushed a button to say if the answer was right or wrong. Scientists recorded how quickly they responded and what regions of their brain became active as they did.

In a separate session, they also tested the kids face to face, watching if they moved their lips or counted on their fingers, for comparison with the brain data. The children were tested twice, approximately a year apart. As the children grew up, their answers relied more on memory and became faster and more accurate, and it showed in the brain. There was less activity in the prefrontal and parietal brain parts associated with counting and more in the hippocampus.

Next, the team put 20 adolescents and 20 adults into the MRI machines and gave them the same simple addition problems. It turns out that adults do not use their memory-crunching hippocampus in the same way. Instead of using a lot of effort, retrieving six plus four equals 10 from long-term storage was almost automatic, the team said.

In other words, over time the brain became increasingly efficient at retrieving facts. Think of it like a bumpy, grassy field, NIH’s Mann Koepke explains. Walk over the same spot enough and a smooth, grass-free path forms, making it easier to get from start to end.

If your brain does not have to work as hard on simple math, it has more working memory free to process the teacher’s brand-new lesson on more complex math.

While schools tend to focus on math problems around third grade, and math learning disabilities often are diagnosed by fifth grade, the new findings suggest “the need to intervene is much earlier than we ever used to think,” Mann Koepke adds and even offers some tips:

Don’t teach your toddler to count solely by reciting numbers. Attach numbers to a noun — “Here are five crayons: One crayon, two crayons…” or say “I need to buy two yogurts” as you pick them from the store shelf — so they’ll absorb the quantity concept.

Talk about distance: How many steps to your ball? The swing is farther away; it takes more steps.

Describe shapes: The ellipse is round like a circle but flatter.

As they grow, show children how math is part of daily life, as you make change, or measure ingredients, or decide how soon to leave for a destination 10 miles away,

“We should be talking to our children about magnitude, numbers, distance, shapes as soon as they’re born,” she contends. “More than likely, this is a positive influence on their brain function.”

CogniFit offers you an online platform to assess and train the cognitive abilities of children such as their concentration, memory and attention: CogniFit for Families. CogniFit personalized brain training program helps boost reading skills and cognitive functions. The program also includes a specific training for mental arithmetic.

Sleep after learning boosts memory

Sleep after learning boosts memory

Numerous studies published over the past decade have shown that a good night’s sleep is essential for brain health as it enhances the consolidation of newly formed memories in people. But exactly how these observations were related was unclear. A new study discovered the mechanism by which a good night’s sleep improves learning and memory.

In the study published in the journal Science on June 6th, researchers at New York University School of Medicine and Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School show for the first time that sleep after learning encourages the growth of dendritic spines, the tiny protrusions from brain cells that connect to other brain cells and facilitate the passage of information across synapses, the junctions at which brain cells meet. In addition, the activity of brain cells during deep sleep, or slow-wave sleep, after learning is critical for such growth.

The findings, in mice, provide important physical evidence in support of the hypothesis that sleep helps consolidate and strengthen new memories, and show for the first time how learning and sleep cause physical changes in the motor cortex, a brain region responsible for voluntary movements.

“We’ve known for a long time that sleep plays an important role in learning and memory. If you don’t sleep well you won’t learn well,” said senior investigator Wen-Biao Gan, PhD, professor of neuroscience and physiology and a member of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. “But what’s the underlying physical mechanism responsible for this phenomenon? Here we’ve shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory. We also show how different types of learning form synapses on different branches of the same neurons, suggesting that learning causes very specific structural changes in the brain.”

To find out the mechanism by which a good night’s sleep improves learning and memory, researchers trained 15 mice to run backwards or forwards on a rotating rod. They allowed some of them to fall asleep afterwards for 7 hours, while the rest were kept awake.

The team monitored the activity and microscopic structure of the mice’s motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement, through a small transparent “window” in their skulls. This allowed them to watch in real time how the brain responded to learning the different tasks.

They found that learning a new task led to the formation of new dendritic spines – tiny structures that project from the end of nerve cells and help pass electric signals from one neuron to another – but only in the mice left to sleep.

This happened during the non-rapid eye movement stage of sleep. Each task caused a different pattern of spines to sprout along the branches of the same motor cortex neurons.

At the same time, the neurons that were active during the initial task were re-activated, seemingly to stabilize the newly formed spines.

This growth spurt continued after the mice woke up. About 5 per cent of spines in the motor cortex were formed anew in the 8 to 24 hour period after the mice woke up, said co-author Guang Yang, also at the Skirball Institute. “Our previous studies suggest that about 10 per cent of these new spines should be maintained over subsequent weeks to months,” he said.

“Now we know that when we learn something new, a neuron will grow new connections on a specific branch,” said Dr. Gan. “Imagine a tree that grows leaves (spines) on one branch but not another branch. When we learn something new, it’s like we’re sprouting leaves on a specific branch.”

Dr. Gan’s team is now trying to answer these questions. “We would like to see how brain activity during sleep affects signaling within specific sets of branches and ultimately causes the formation of new spines,” he said.

There are other ways to improve your memory, in addition to sleep. Start CogniFit specific brain training program for memory now!

Launch of the new CogniFit brain training for children.

Launch of the new CogniFit brain training for children.

We are very excited to announce today the launch of a specific platform for children. Parents can now access a specific tool to help their children train their cognition, improve their cognitive skills and develop their learning capacities.

Parents can access the new platform here. CogniFit has created a unique environment where parents can decide to have their kids play at the different brain games within their own account, avoiding the need for children to have a separate account or unique email address.

Parents can also select and recommend a large number of specific brain training regimens for their children and create a separate account for their child so they can access it by themselves. Parents can easily choose the number of children they have and create different access for each of them.

This new platform also allows parents to get all the cognitive results of their kids and follow their progress and evolution. The platform has been specifically developed to meet the needs of the parents, provide useful insights into the cognition of their children and provide a large number of different personal results.

Good brain fitness is a key element of an active lifestyle. Based on brain plasticity, we know today that brain training can help improve a large number of cognitive abilities over time. This at every age and for most situations. Providing parents a unique and innovative tool to train the cognition of their children is a natural extension of the CogniFit offering.

Today, CogniFit offers its brain training for individuals seeking to maintain and improve their brain health, to professionals who need a scientific tool to assess and train their patients and now for parents who want to improve the cognition of their children.

By regularly training skills such as memory, concentration, motor control and attention, the new CogniFit brain training for children can also help improve their learning capacities which are so important to their personal development. Based on CogniFit’s patented technology, the training regimen is automatically adjusted to the right level of difficulty. The system also chooses the most relevant tasks so the training is optimal for each kid.

Access to this new platform is free and parents can see how their child reacts to the different brain exercises. To then get access to all the different tasks, parents can easily subscribe and unlock all the features of the new platform.

We hope you will enjoy this new platform as we do and enjoy the capacity to provide the benefits of brain training to very important individuals, our children.