The cognitivist theory of learning was advanced by Koffka, Kohler, Lewin, Piaget, Ausubel, Bruner, and Gagne. It views the learning process as an internal intellectual process which includes the aspects of insight, processing of information, memorizing and conceiving a certain perception about what is learned. Its locus of learning is internal cognitive structuring unlike the external stimuli in the behaviorist theory. It focuses primarily on the internal structure that enables the learning process to happen. This is very important in adult education since the model used must be appropriate to the internal structures of adults. It must be understood that, adults carry a lot of issues in their minds and the model of learning used must fit their intellectual structure.
The cognitivist theory views the purpose of education as being to develop the capacity and skill to learn better by creating the necessary environment for internalization of what is learned. This is the basis of any learning process since what is learned must be understood and internalized even before it is practiced. The role of educator is seen as purely to structure the learning process and contents in a way that it can be understood easily by the learning group. This is a very essential concept in adult learning since what is being learned must be presented in a way related to what the learners are facing. Learning content must be relevant in order to draw their attention. The learning model used must take into consideration the needs of the learning group and consider how the content will help them. This is because adult learning is focused. In the adult learning process, this theory insists on the cognitive development of the learners. The content of learning must not be too difficult for the learners to understand. Adults easily learn how to learn by themselves and the learning model used should facilitate their self-directed learning.
The cognitivist theory emphasizes taking into consideration the learning content according to the cognitive ability of the learners. The cognitivist theory sees learning as a process that involves the structuring of the intellectual and cognitive processes of an individual. It sees learning as that which brings about new knowledge in an individual.
All learning theories have an aspect in themselves that may definitely help adults in their learning process. These theories take into consideration the learning environment, the contents of leaning and the impact of learning to the individual and the society. Therefore they should be the basic theories to consider when putting into practice any adult learning model.
By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A., Human Resource Development