Advancing a Framework for Climate Change Education in Singapore Through Teacher Professional Development, pp. 2 of 8

Levels of Cognitive Engagement

Due to time constraints, the workshop, based largely on cognitive engagement theories, focused on the curriculum content for climate change. Historically, educators within a behavioral paradigm considered knowledge to be stored in the learner’s memory when something was learned. The theories regarding learning conditions, however, have evolved to incorporate cognitivist psychology theories. More specifically, cognitivist theories point to an information-processing model of cognition in which external conditions in the learner’s environment influence internal processes (Gagné, 1985).

When thinking about the conditions that are required for some capabilities to be learned, Gagne (1985) suggested that it is not simply identifying what is to be learned but appropriately structuring learning experiences to help students accomplish things they could not previously carry out on their own. Desired capabilities or learning outcomes, then, are performance categories that can help teachers consider the kinds of learning experiences and conditions that would be most favorable for student achievement. This concept is aligned with the instructional objectives proposed in “The Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Handbook I: Cognitive Domain” (Bloom, 1956) which presented a classification of how content might be processed.

For example, in the context of climate change education, we might refer to a student having learned the “Carbon Cycle” or the “Impact of global warming.” However, when we say that a student is learning the ‘Carbon Cycle’, we imply that the student might be learning how to define the carbon cycle, what the components of the carbon cycle are and how carbon can be stored or released as different forms in different parts of the natural environment or cycle. Students may be required to explain their definitions, analyze different components or apply their understanding to a new situation.

Implicit in this definition is that there are specific outcomes of learning that can be classified and used as specific instructional objectives for curriculum planning. However, it was Gagné who explicitly proposed levels of learning outcomes. In the modified and improved Gagné and Driscoll (1988) system, cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains were incorporated into differentiating learning outcomes. Krathwohl (2002) also suggested a critique and revision of Bloom’s original taxonomy: instructional objectives were constructed around descriptions of intended learning outcomes arising out of the prescribed instruction. Krathwohl’s cognitive dimension includes remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. We can further extend this cognitive taxonomy into the domains of attitudes, beliefs and actions, as climate change issues require an active response rather than a passive arm-chair critique of events.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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