Cognitive Learning

As technology increasingly takes over knowledge-based work, 

the cognitive skills that are central to today’s education systems will remain important;

but behavioral and non-cognitive skills necessary for

collaboration, innovation, and problem solving will become essential as well.

                                              Klaus Schwab, Founder Chairman, World Economic Forum (b 1938)

Whether in a natural situation or in an artificial situation, learning is happening with the support of the cognitive process. While cognition is the process of acquiring and understanding knowledge through our thoughts, experiences, and senses, learning can be obtaining knowledge through experience, study, or being taught.

In the initial stages of my life (till ten years), as my father got transferred from Bangalore to some remote part in Maharashtra during 1957, my school education got interrupted. For almost three years, I spent most of my time without much focus (though I studied 3rd Standard in a Corporation school during 1958-9 at Chennai living with one of my father’s distant cousin). Those were the years when I spent time reading Tamil weekly magazines, chatting with people whomever I came across and with nature.

After returning to Bangalore in 1960 and joining back 4th Standard in a nearby school, I continued to spend my leisure time in reading and playing all sorts of games, again without specific focus, except passing my school exams in first class year after year! Perhaps, this helped me indirectly to know nature of people of all age groups, through observation and listening. However, at that stage in my life I never evaluated anyone and hence, did not develop any bias or got influenced. Hence, inspite of moving around with all types of people in my neighbourhood and school,  my behaviour remained within the social limits of my family circle.

Cognitive learning can be distinguished from behavioral learning on the basis that cognitive learning involves a change in the learner’s knowledge whereas behavioral learning involves a change in the learner’s behavior. However, a change in knowledge (i.e., cognitive change) must be inferred from the learner’s behavior (i.e., behavioral change), so cognitive learning is closely related to behavioral learning.     

According to established theories  there are four interactive components of the learning process: attention, memory, language and organization. Apart from these components attitude, interest and emotion also play a vital role in learning. The only element that I had  in my younger years is  perhaps memory and to some extent language – Tamil, which is my mother tongue. Though I improved in the other two elements – attention and organization during my engineering years (1968-73), perhaps just good enough for passing examinations.

It was much later during 1993 when my second son found difficulty in learning language, I tried to understand the reason and found out that he was having certain cognitive disabilities like aphasia (having significant difficulty in speaking, writing or understanding language), attention deficit (difficulty in focusing) and a few more.  As my wife was a teacher with lot of patience, she helped him throughout his schooling. After he turned into an adult (2004),  I helped him to develop the required skills to conduct life – communication, independent mobility, managing resources, etc., over a period of time.

Today, technology has made learning many things possible for people even with cognitive disabilities.


November 14, 2022 | Ravi 54