“Cognitive toolkits” and their practical uses

On the Foundations page, we have described a set of cognitive tools, organized in two toolkits, that we may use to evoke, stimulate, and develop scientific understanding. The first set of “cognitive tools” is more prominent in younger children, from pre-school to about age seven or eight, and the second set is more prominent for older students, say around seven or eight years to around fourteen. For older students a third set is more appropriate—though many of these other tools will still be useful—and we will add this further set later. There is a link from each tool in the lists below so you can explore the various ways you can make each of these tools into potent practical helpers in teaching and learning science in everyday classrooms and homes.

Cognitive tools used in early years science learning

Cognitive tools used in early years science learning
The StoryOne of the most powerful tools for engaging the emotions in learning;

Crucial for flexible and creative scientific understanding;
Vivid images

Generating images from words is central to engaging the imagination in learning;
Binary oppositesA powerful organizing tool, providing easy access to grasping scientific concepts and knowledge;
Rhyme, rhythm,
and pattern
Potent tools for aiding memory and for establishing emotional meaning and interest;
PlayCan help students’ develop increasing control over their scientific understanding;
Mystery and puzzlesCan create an attractive sense of how much fascinating knowledge about the world remains to be discovered;

Cognitive tools used in intermediate and early secondary school science learning

Cognitive tools used in intermediate and early secondary school science learning
Changing contexts“The redefinition of reality” –– in which students’ interest in content shifts in subtle and important ways;
Extremes and limits

Engagement by the limits of reality and the extremes of experience –– students develop a fascination with the exotic and extreme, as, for example, in the Guinness Website of World Records;

Seeing knowledge in terms of human qualities –– recognize that all knowledge is human knowledge, and a product of someone’s hopes, fears, and passions, and so make the world opened by scientific inquiry more full of rich meanings;
Personalizing narrativesCollecting things or a developing a hobby –– the urge to securely grasp some feature of reality can stimulate many scientific activities;
The sense of wonderCan capture the imagination in the worlds, both real and fictional, that science opens up;
Associating with the heroicGives confidence and enables students take on in some degree the qualities of the heroes with whom they associate;