Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cognitivism in Practice

In advance of a student field trip to the National Gallery in Washington DC, I have begun to build a Virtual Field Trip Concept map to plan the course of the student visit.   Sitting down with several students to discuss and plot out on the computer, the “essential question” learning objectives, and logistics of the trip was an eye opening experience for us both.
We soon discovered each other’s level of understanding of what it takes to plan and pull off a bus trip with Advanced Placement Art Studio students into a big city and back.  We also discovered how little the expectations that each had for the trip matched.
Planning and plotting the steps into the bubbles on the screen presented the group with an opportunity to be actively involved in the development of the itinerary and the opportunity to take ownership of their learning experience.  The students examined prior knowledge of the site and educational objectives of their course work, adjust their thinking after investigation of current shows, and possible learning opportunities.  The planning had to allow for, travel time, time at site, time allowance for lunch.     
From an instructor’s point of view this provided both a teaching, an assessment moment, and more importantly, a moment to observe and study the process of learning, particularly the critical thinking involved.  From the students’ perspective, the mapping provided them with an opportunity to participate in their own learning, contribute to the planning, and help reinforce learning that related to their content. 
One additional note on the process was with the use of the technology itself.  The speed at which the students were able to adjust the map to accommodate the updates and changes in was a very positive aspect of its use.  This lessened the amount of time necessary for adjusting and readjustment of the timeline and provided an almost immediate visual reference of how the trip was coming together. 
All in all the incorporation of  technology and this particular mapping program was a good one for both instructor and student and provided  growth in student and instructor’s  understanding of  a variety of  learning opportunities.


  1. Jim,
    That is so exciting that you will be taking your students to D.C. I have always wanted to go, but have not made time for it. That city has so much to learn from! That is a great idea to include a virtual field trip before a real life one that way the students have an idea what to look for, especially since D.C. has so much to offer! It seems as though the students have learned a lot of cognitive skills that they will be able to take with them while on their trip. The will be able to recall what the learned on their virtual trip and use those ideas to retain what the will find on their actual real life trip. how do you think cues, questions, and advanced organizers along with note taking and summarizing fit into cognitive learning theories?

    1. Amanda,
      Thanks for the post. Though time will tell as to how the development of the virtual field trip will play out cognitively when the students are walking the galleries of the National, but being fore warned is forearmed as they say. Part of the initial planning will include study of the same floor plans and placement of the exhibits online that students will carry physical copies of through the halls. The connection of virtual to physical should help with recall of the studied information and provide the students cues that will lessen the confusion that they face with this their first encounter with this new learning experience.

  2. James,
    You stated that “Planning and plotting the steps into the bubbles on the screen presented the group with an opportunity to be actively involved in the development of the itinerary and the opportunity to take ownership of their learning experience”. I totally agree with your view. While dealing with kids that put the minimum effort into their assignments, making them go above and beyond with charts etc, might help them retain the information or spark some interest that they may have been “eh” too. In my wood working class, I teach students everything to know from A – Z. Currently, we are bring all that information into one place and relating everything together. It’s fun to see the “light bulb” turn on and kids start to make the connection.