The Twelve Cognitive Processes that Underlie Learning

So many people are thinking, talking, reading, writing and working towards 21st Century Skills, from what I can see most of them are not librarians and libraries don’t figure into their projections or plans. While I am heartened to see so many groups thinking about our problems, I’m discouraged at the lack of a role for libraries, whether school, public or academic.

I recently came across another group working to ensure students acquires the skills necessary for to be successful citizens in today’s world. Engines for Education was founded by Roger Schank who writes at Education Outrage

Dr. Schank was the Founder of the renowned Institute for the Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, where he is John P. Evans Professor Emeritus in Computer Science, Education and Psychology. He was Professor of Computer Science and Psychology at Yale University and Director of the Yale Artificial Intelligence Project. He was a visiting professor at the University of Paris VII, an Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Linguistics at Stanford University and research fellow at the Institute for Semantics and Cognition in Switzerland. He also served as the Distinguished Career Professor in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. He is a fellow of the AAAI and was founder of the Cognitive Science Society and co-founder of the Journal of Cognitive Science. He holds a Ph.D. in Linguistics from University of Texas.

From Engines for Education (emphasis added by me)

The following cognitive skills are developed gradually over time. This is the stuff that we need to learn how to do in order to function well in the world. . The more proficient you are at these skills, the smarter you appear and the more you can learn:

Conceptual Processes

1. Prediction: Making a prediction about the outcome of actions
2. Modeling: Building a conscious model of a process
3. Experimentation: Finding out for oneself what works and what doesn’t
4. Evaluation: Improving our ability to determine the value of something on many different dimensions

Analytic Processes

5. Diagnosis: Making a diagnosis of a complex situation by identifying relevant factors and seeking causal explanations
6. Planning: Learning to plan and do needs analysis as well as acquiring a conscious and subconscious understanding of what goals are satisfied by what plans
7. Causation: Detecting what has caused a sequence of events to occur by relying upon a case base of previous knowledge of similar situations
8. Judgment: Making an objective judgment

Social Processes

9. Influence: Understanding how others respond to your requests and recognizing consciously and unconsciously how to improve the process
10. Teamwork: Learning how to achieve goals by using a team, consciously allocating roles, managing inputs from others, coordinating actors, and handling conflicts; managing operations using a model of processes and handling real time issues
11. Negotiation: Making a deal; negotiation/contracts; resolving goal conflicts
12. Describing: Creating conscious descriptions of situations to explain them to others in writing and orally

One’s intelligence is typically judged by others in relation to one’s proficiency at five of these cognitive skills:

  • Prediction
  • Diagnosis
  • Causation
  • Describing
  • Planning

5 Responses to “The Twelve Cognitive Processes that Underlie Learning”

  1. Paul Says:

    In the late 1980’s I was in an Education library at a University and saw a diagram from the 1960s or 1970s with a set of cognitive processes similar to those listed by Dr. Schank. I think it was part of something published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). I can’t remember what I was reading however. I think it was something about teaching science to children.The diagram had an illustration of a person in the center and the cognitive processes around it with an arm of the illustrated person pointing like a hand of a clock to a process.
    I know Dr. Schank puts emphasis on doing rather than reading, but I’m reading The Oxford Guide to Library Research which emphasizes that online search has limitations and offsite high density storage may not be a good idea. How could I find this diagram again?

  2. wendyjreynolds Says:

    Great post! I think that these cognitive processes could be used to great advantage by organizations in assessing the abilities and potential of employees. Succession planning is a huge thing for us right now, and these points may be just what we need as we develop tools for identifying and developing our next generation of leaders.

    • Bobbi Newman Says:

      Great point Wendy! All of these new skills are what employers want (or should want) in employees! If you can share what you develop I’d would love to see it!

  3. Donna Watt Says:

    Loved the post, Bobbi. Food for thought – and I have blogged about it since, in conjunction with a tweet from Larry Ferlazzo yesterday. Using my skills of trasliteracy, I am pondering how we might spread our word across relevant digital spaces to promote libraries and the contribution we can make to our patron’s information journeys…

    Really enjoy your posts!

    • Bobbi Newman Says:

      I’m looking for that answer as well. I think we need to better demonstrate the need for libraries, we fill a needed role that no one else can fill. It seems so obvious to me but not others.

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