Unit 1: Best Cognitive Learning Strategies for Middle School Students


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Journal Tips to Reflect

Introduction: Throughout this course you will have the opportunity to reflect on the things you are reading about and learning. True reflection begins with a record of what one already knows or has learned from past experience.

  1. Take a moment to jot down your prior knowledge of this topic. Then read the content presented. Were you correct? Make note of info you learned or gaps you need filled.
  2. Next, pose a question helping you to move forward in your research, such as: when/where can I use this information? or how can I alter my way of doing things to be more in line with this way of thinking? or what are the best practices for implementing these strategies?
  3. Once your question is established, you can further utilize your journal by attaching a goal statement, such as: I will focus on implementing one strategy for three months or I will find and list supporting and critical arguments for this way of learning or I will list my experiences as I try out these different methods, etc

Cognitive Strategies for Middle School Students

Cognitive Strategies Infographic

Specific cognitive learning strategies most effective for middle school students are:

  • focus intently and beat procrastination (every minute counts; use the Pomodoro technique in a distraction free environment)
  • exert self-discipline even when it doesn't come naturally (find ways to overcome challenges by building habits and removing temptations from your surroundings
  • study actively not passively (learning involves moving back and forth between focused {intense concentration} and diffuse modes of thinking {active brain breaks}

Studying vs Cognitive Learning

What is Studying?

Is studying completely ineffective? Definitely not. But it may not be producing the results that most students expect to receive. Studying can be defined as independent (cognitive or behavioral) engagement initiated to learn for upcoming tasks, specifically tests or performances. Put more simply; engaging with academic content at a surface level.

Employing habitual study strategies can increase your confidence and reduce your anxiety about tests and deadlines. However, once those tests have been taken, the information garnered through all those hours of memorization simply fades away.

Some courses don't require deep processing of academic content but a few quizzes or a test is given to assess progress. The Handbook of Research and Learning recommends strategically managing time and organization as a first step in achieving academic goals.

What is Cognitive Learning?

Cognitive Learning is a term known by many names: metacognition, self-regulated learning, brain based learning and learning how to learn. This theory has a strong emphasis on the regulation of the learning processes and learning outcomes. Cognitive learning is an integration of cognitive, motivational, and contextual factors of learning. Indicators of these type of skills are demonstrated as:

systematically following a plan or deliberately changing that plan, monitoring and checking, efficient note taking, time and resource management, evaluating performance through reflection

The function of these activities is to evaluate and interpret the outcome, and to learn from one's course of action for future occasions. The execution of these skills are cyclical. Proficient learners have incorporated these cycles of monitoring and evaluation, and renewed goal setting and planning in their executive behavior.

For Middle School Students

The success of sustaining this shift of perspective on learning how to learn depends on the classroom culture, the opportunities to learn from mistakes, and the types of conversations teachers generate about learning as students are immersed in it. Learning to learn is the end goal, and content is the vehicle to help learners understand the process, monitor their experience, and achieve the academic gains necessary. Once learners understand how to learn and experience success with regulating their own processes, there will be no limit on where they'll go on their lifelong journey.

Follow the links to see examples of study techniques that reflect cognitive learning theory. Justin Sung:My Most Powerful Study Trick (any subject) https://youtu.be/UY2GO1ML-Bo, Ali Abdaal: Study Tips: How to Learn New Content https://youtu.be/fBXnxlLR0PY

Navigate to: Unit 2: Middle School Students Exposed


Erkens, Schimmer and Vagle. 2019. Growing Tomorrow's Citizens in Today's Classrooms. Solution Tree Press.

Mayer, Richard. 2017. Handbook of Research on Learning and Instruction. Routledge