Teaching in the Cognitive Domain

old-chimpanzee-11298298953dvvI teach introductory biology courses. I live in the cognitive domain. Some professors may view teaching 1st and 2nd year courses as boring in their simplicity, but to me, the challenge and responsibility is exciting. I have the challenge of providing a smorgasbord of an entire scientific discipline. I must present the discipline in the most palatable way possibly while laying a foundation for future studies.It is my responsibility to entice students to learn so that they can build a strong foundation. If I screw it up, I may turn students away or worse, set them up for failure down the road. So what are some strategies for teaching in the cognitive domain?

I was reviewing my notes for a course I took on curriculum development and came across a handy table that provides strategies for teaching in the cognitive domain. This seems very fortuitous because as the semester winds down, I’m reviewing what worked and what didn’t in the past year. So as I review the table, these are some of the strategies I want to incorporate into my course revisions.

At the introductory level, ensuring pre-requisite knowledge is in place is the top priority. One suggestion is to “ask students questions about relevant concepts, facts and processes”. I have provided the students with learning activities which ask these questions, but I think what is missing is more self-evaluation both in class and outside class. High on my list of things to do is to look into Socrative for in class assessment. Outside of class, I would like to redo my instructional videos as a tutorial instead of a lecture. I could also use Moodle to provide more self-assessment opportunities.

My next priority is creating enthusiasm. In order to learn, students must want to learn. Motivation ultimately comes from the student. This idea is expressed by the proverb, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”. Or in the case of the cognitive domain, “you can lead the student to the material, but you can’t make them think”. So very true, but what if the instructor makes thinking about the material so appealing and so much fun and so engaging, the student can’t help themselves but think? So that is my motto. I want to add some case studies to arouse the learner’s curiosity. I’m also playing with the idea of alternative assessment techniques like learning journals that the students work on throughout the semester in addition to or instead of multiple choice midterms. One idea is to have students journal about their emotions regarding course material. A second journal approach is to have students find newspaper articles related to course material.

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