Publication Date: 2003
Author: Boston, Carol
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation
Cognitive Science and Assessment. ERIC Digest.
Cognitive science is devoted to the study of how people think and learn and how, when, and whether they use what they know to solve problems (Greeno, Collins, & Resnick, 1997; National Research Council, 2001). The cognitive perspective in education encompasses how learners develop and structure their knowledge in specific subject areas and how assessment tasks might be designed to enable students to demonstrate the knowledge and cognitive processes necessary to be judged proficient in these subject areas. This Digest provides educators with an overview of some important facets of cognitive science research and suggests implications for classroom assessment.
HOW DO EXPERTS AND NOVICES DIFFER IN THEIR APPROACH TO PROBLEMS?
Education researchers study the thinking of experts in various subject areas to gain an understanding of what concepts and procedures are most important to teach and how they are interrelated. The concept is that educators can and should be moving students along a continuum toward real-world subject mastery based on a deep understanding of how subject knowledge is organized (Bereiter & Scardamalia, 1986).
When faced with a problem, learners tend to search their memories for
a schema, or learned technique for organizing and interpreting information
in a certain subject, in
When compared with novice learners, experts in a subject are notable
COGNITIVE SCIENCE IN THE CLASSROOM
Ideally, developmental models of learning could be created that note
Allowing for variations among learners, it is possible to discover the
More research has been done about domain structure in some disciplines
HOW DO LEARNERS STORE AND ACCESS KNOWLEDGE?
Memory may be divided into two types: short-term, or working memory,
To support the learning process, students can be taught meta-cognitive
HOW CAN ASSESSMENT DESIGNERS USE FINDINGS FROM COGNITIVE SCIENCE?
The design of any assessment should begin with a statement of purpose
Cognitive science calls for test developers to:
* Work from a deep knowledge of the central concepts and principles of a given subject area, and the most important related information.
* Identify or develop those tasks that allow students to demonstrate
* Make sure tasks or questions are sufficiently complex to get at how students have organized their knowledge and how and when they use it.
* Emphasize the contents of long-term memory rather than short-term, or working, memory by not burdening test-takers withrequirements to track a large number of response options or major quantities of extraneous information while answering a question.
* Emphasize relevant constructs--for example, a mathematics assessment should not over-emphasize reading and writing, unless communicating about mathematics is the skill to be measured.
* Not limit choice of item format. Both multiple-choice and
* Regard task difficulty in terms of underlying knowledge of cognitive processes required, rather than statistical information such as how many respondents answered correctly.
At the classroom assessment level, cognitive science findings encourage teachers to:
* Teach learners how and when to apply various approaches and procedures.
* Teach meta-cognitive skills within content areas so learners become capable of directing their thinking and reflecting on their progress.
* Observe students as they solve problems.
* Have students think aloud as they work or describe the reasoning that leads them to a particular solution.
* Analyze student errors on assignments or tests to determine which students got a question or problem wrong and why it appeared difficult for them. Knowing the source of difficulty can lead to more targeted, effective remediation.
Teachers should also be aware that acquiring important knowledge and
skills at an
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