Today, the idea that knowing or learning something is a process in which we receive information from the outside, process it and finally interpret it in order to end up having knowledge of the element in question may seem logical and current.
This idea indicates that the individual who knows participates in the process of knowing, modeling and interpreting reality in a direct way. However, this consideration has not always existed, with multiple theories and ways of conceptualizing reality that linked knowledge to the exact transfer from objective reality to our consciousness, the person being a passive element between reality and cognition, or else ‘there is an intermediate stage, it is an indecipherable element.
Theories which state that knowledge and learning are mediated by a series of internal cognitive processes, manipulating the symbolic elements that we perceive in order to make sense of reality are the so-called cognitivist theories, being among them one of the first the cognitive theory of Jerome Bruner.
Bruner’s cognitive theory: active subject and categorization theory
For Jérôme Bruner and for other cognitivist theories, one of the main elements of knowledge is the active participation of the learning subject. In other words, that is to say it is not for the individual to take information from the outside without further delay, but for it to turn into knowledge, it must be processed, Worked on and endowed with meaning by the subject.
According to Bruner’s cognitive theory, in the process of knowing and learning, human beings try to categorize events and elements of reality into sets of equivalent elements. Thus, we experiment with experiences and perceived reality by creating concepts based on the discrimination of different stimuli.
In this process, called categorization, the information received from the outside is actively worked, coded and classified with a series of tags or categories in order to make it possible to understand reality. This categorization allows for the formation of concepts and the ability to make predictions and make decisions. It is an explanatory model strongly influenced by IT, Which was based on the functioning of the computers of the time.
From Bruner’s cognitive point of view, From categorization we are able to generate knowledge. These categorizations will not always remain stable and closed, but will vary from life experience, changing and expanding. When confronted with a reality to be categorized, the individual can establish two types of process, the formation of the concept or what is called the realization of the concept.
This process is typical of the early stages of development. The subject proceeds to learn a concept or a category, generating by itself the information to be classified in the category created by him / her. Common models are recognized in various information units and are unified in certain concepts.
The second type of process that can be performed is the identification of properties that allow the stimulus to be recorded in an existing category created by others. The subject deduces the main attributes of the category formed, Compare and contrast examples that contain the main attributes of the category with other elements that do not have them. In other words, this process allows the creation of inclusion and exclusion criteria within a category.
Ways of Representing Reality According to Bruner’s Cognitive Theory
Based on what we have commented on so far, it is deductible that for Bruner learning is active, Give the individual a cognitive structure based on association with prior knowledge that allows him to build knowledge and make inferences.
Cognitive representation of reality can be acquired in three ways or modes, used at different evolutionary points of development due to the need for sufficient cognitive resources as they become more complicated. These modes of representation are not mutually exclusive and several can be applied at the same time to facilitate learning.
In this way, knowledge is acquired through action and direct interaction with the element to be known. This way of representing reality is typical of the initial stages of development, that is to say in the first years of life. This is the type of representation that is achieved with procedural learning, such as learning to drive a car or a bicycle, or using cutlery for eating.
It is iconically known when recognizable and non-symbolic visual elements are used, Like a photograph or a drawing. It is from the age of three that most boys and girls can use this type of representation, due to their higher level of development.
Knowing symbolically implies that information is obtained through symbols such as words, concepts, abstractions, and written language. The level of intellectual development required for this type of representation is much higher than the previous onesAs one must have the ability to abstract and recognize symbols and their meanings. It is considered that this type of representation appeared around the age of six in most boys and girls.
Applications of cognitive theory in education
Learning is the means by which humans and other organisms acquire information and knowledge about the environment. For this reason, Bruner’s cognitive theory has served and in fact largely focused on the promotion of learning processes and development from childhood, although its perspective becomes constructivist.
For Bruner, education consists of the inculcation of skills and knowledge through the representation of what is already known and of what we are trying to know, seeking that the individual can generalize knowledge by taking into account only particularities of each knowledge.
The concept of scaffolding
Another of the fundamental concepts of Bruner’s theory, in this case stemming from a constructivist conception, is the concept of scaffolding. By Bruner, learning or the process by which we obtain knowledge must be facilitated by the endowment of external help. The individual is not the only source of learning, but from the outside you can create facilities to “match” the learning level of the other person and thus improve the quality and speed. learning.
These aids must be granted in a graduated manner, providing a high level of assistance at the beginning or in the presence of great difficulties so that over time and with the gradual mastery by the learner, these are withdrawn, giving a increasing autonomy to the individual.
The metaphor of a scaffolding used to construct a building is obvious, referring to this process of adaptation and transitory aid as scaffolding.
Importance of values, needs and expectations
It has been shown that the knowledge and even the perception of phenomena depend largely on the needs, Beliefs and expectations. Seeing how results don’t match too high expectations can cause learning to stop due to frustration, while too low expectations can hinder and hinder potential progress.
An example of the importance of expectations is visible in some experiments, in which, for example, subjects of low economic level are able to perceive coins as larger because of the higher value they give them.
Giving meaning: working with what is already known
It is also essential to know that the news knowledge is based on old, in what the person already knows, so that new information can be constructed and modified from it.
This allows the subject to make sense of the new information, Being able to know not only decontextualized information but also other cognitions that you can use in your daily life.
In search of discovery learning
Tal as stated in his cognitive theory, for Bruner, the subject is an active being in the process of learning and knowledge, Which does not limit itself to recording information from the outside but must work with it in order to be able to transform it into knowledge. In this sense, he considers that traditional school learning has been based too much on a process of acquiring decontextualized information.
In opposition to this it offers learning by discovery, in which the subject learns and is stimulated to know through curiosity, motivation and self-learning, being the pedagogical guide for it.
- Bruner, JS (ed.). (1980). Research on cognitive development. Madrid: Pablo of the river.
- Bruner, JS (1981). Mental reality and possible worlds. Madrid: Gedisa.
- Bruner, JS, Goodnaw, JJ and Austin, GA (1978). The mental process in learning. Madrid: Nancea.
- Guilar, ME (2009). Bruner’s ideas: from the cognitive revolution to the cultural revolution. Educate, 13; 44, 235-241. University of the Andes, Venezuela.
- Méndez, Z. (2003). Learning and cognition. San Jose, Costa Rica. Publisher: EUNED, sixth reprint.