Libraries and Cognition

I came across a piece from the Libraries and Transliteracy blog in which the author, Bobbi Newman, lists twelve cognitive processes essential to learning. Following are these twelve processes as suggested by the Engines for Education group:

Conceptual Processes

1. Prediction: Making a prediction about the outcome of actions
2. Modeling: Building a conscious model of a process
3. Experimentation: Finding out for oneself what works and what doesn’t
4. Evaluation: Improving our ability to determine the value of something on many different dimensions

Analytic Processes

5. Diagnosis: Making a diagnosis of a complex situation by identifying relevant factors and seeking causal explanations
6. Planning: Learning to plan and do needs analysis as well as acquiring a conscious and subconscious understanding of what goals are satisfied by what plans
7. Causation: Detecting what has caused a sequence of events to occur by relying upon a case base of previous knowledge of similar situations
8. Judgment: Making an objective judgment

Social Processes

9. Influence: Understanding how others respond to your requests and recognizing consciously and unconsciously how to improve the process
10. Teamwork: Learning how to achieve goals by using a team, consciously allocating roles, managing inputs from others, coordinating actors, and handling conflicts; managing operations using a model of processes and handling real time issues
11. Negotiation: Making a deal; negotiation/contracts; resolving goal conflicts
12. Describing: Creating conscious descriptions of situations to explain them to others in writing and orally

Bobbi’s post can be read here: In it, Bobbi suggests that school, academic, and public libraries have failed to see their role in helping learners to maturate these cognition processes.

My first thought was, Wow. Good luck with that. Then I asked myself why these pedagogical hooks often seem to miss libraries and what librarians might do to get more involved–to seek their role in this area of learning and be further identified among institutions that foster education.

A librarian and textbook editor, I understand a few things about learning styles and processes of comprehension. I can tell you that, as Engines for Education states, these cognitive processes are developed gradually. They take years of repetitive, structured instruction and practice to develop. It’s a creative, astute, and connected public librarian who can foster the partnerships and create the programming that help nurture these skills in multiage patrons. Frankly, I’d be terribly interested to learn if and how someone or some group is dealing with this. Still, the average public librarian doesn’t have a degree in education and isn’t versed in pedagogy, cognition, and the psychology involved in the teaching/learning experience. So, who has this expertise?

Many school librarians definitely do. Many academic librarians also have this type of expert knowledge. So how are they using their libraries and resources to facilitate cognition and learning skills? Are they at all? Why not? I’ve written in the past about why school and academic libraries are essential not only to a well-rounded education, but to cultivating deeper, more complex ways of learning and thinking. Methods of recall, contextualization, and many other important conceptual skills are mined in school libraries by adroit professional librarians. If school librarians can tap and integrate this power, couldn’t they more confidently sell their libraries to the school board at budget meetings? Unfortunately, the way things are trending, many concerned parents and faculty will have to rely on the expertise of paraprofessionals to unearth their children’s mastery of conceptual processes.

Which brings me back to my original thought. Wow. Good luck with that.


About Steven V. Kaszynski
librarian, editor, contributor

One Response to Libraries and Cognition

  1. Pingback: 2010 in review | the Go Librarians

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