Student Cognitive Development and Implications for Teaching and Learning

with Susan K. Wolcott

Every semester we develop our syllabi around the knowledge and skills we hope students will master during our courses. Unfortunately, students often run into problems meeting our expectations, and we sometimes struggle to understand the reasons behind their difficulties. We often complain that students don’t seem to be as prepared or motivated as students in the “old days.” How can we improve our students’ learning?

This workshop will focus on the role cognitive development plays in student performance, including:

  • Learning of well-defined coursework content
  • Attitudes and other emotional reactions to coursework activities and professor feedback
  • Responses to open-ended tasks requiring higher-order thinking skills (e.g., critical thinking, ethical reasoning, decision making, reflection, and life-long learning)
  • Effectiveness of programs such as service-learning

Using a case-study format, workshop participants analyze common learning obstacles faced by college students. With the assistance of a cognitive development framework, they will explore techniques for overcoming student obstacles. The cognitive development framework used in the workshop is Steps for Better Thinking (Lynch & Wolcott, IDEA Paper #37), based on King & Kitchener’s reflective judgment model and Kurt Fischer’s dynamic skill theory.

The workshop is of interest to individual professors as well as curriculum committee members and administrators.

The minimum amount of time required for this workshop is 1.5 hours; longer workshops will allow greater participation and opportunities for participants to further explore case studies of student performance.