Part #2: cognition and education

Cognition is about how we experience and understand the world around us.

No biggie then, right?

It refers more specifically to the processes we use to gain, remember and use our knowledge throughout our lives.

And it forms the basis for how we think and learn.

Examples of our cognitive processes include things like:

  • Attention
  • Working memory
  • Reasoning
  • Problem solving
  • Comprehension
  • Language
  • Evaluation/analysis
  • Sensory perception

Understanding cognition in education

Historically, there has been a one-size-fits-all approach to education.

This idea that learning support is somehow extra to “normal” education.

The most effective educators are incorporating learning support into their core learning journey and helping greater numbers of learners to succeed.

Because our cognitive abilities don’t exist on a single spectrum that has “good” on one end and “bad” on the other.

We are all different.

Variation in cognition is a good thing. You might struggle with some tasks but excel in others. And with this knowledge, you can lean on your strengths to prevent negative outcomes with tasks you find more difficult.

Our data shows that one in every three people are neurodiverse and require support. That’s roughly 30% of the population!

And education should reflect this diversity in how we think and learn within all classroom and learning environments.

How can educators embrace cognitive diversity?

We can all do more, as individuals and organisations, to raise awareness of neurodiversity and bring positive changes to our daily lives and the lives people in education.

We believe we can tackle this in three different ways:

1. Make identifying neurodiversity accessible to all

Many learners, throughout their education, will not present with distinct neurodiverse traits.

These hidden needs can present real barriers to learning because people can be wrongly overlooked, and it may become too late to support these learners.

You can avoid this if you identify learners’ needs early on.

Yet traditional cognitive assessments are often expensive and only given when all else has been tried.

These paper-based assessments are more accessible in higher education institutions. But in 2018, roughly only 5.8% of the working-age population studied at university and less than 3% are given the opportunity to complete an assessment.

So the opportunity to increase the level of access to cognitive assessments is significant.

Currently, one in five people in the UK leave education without basic qualifications.

If you are able to increase the accessibility and availability of cognitive assessments, you have an opportunity not just to improve the lives of learners but to embrace cognitive diversity and improve society as a whole.

2. Tailor learning journeys for each and every individual

What can you do once a learner’s needs are identified?

That’s where cognitive interventions come into play.

By understanding the way an individual thinks, you can personalise their learning journey. Giving them access to information in ways that are best suited to their cognitive needs, improving their ability to acquire, process and apply new knowledge.

By providing learners with tailored learning strategies throughout their journey, mapped to their level of study, you can encourage learners to think more critically and help them to break down tasks that they find difficult.

Expanding their skills and knowledge as their level advances and increasing learner outcomes at all stages.

3. Empower your organisation to support learners from end to end

By knowing the areas that your learners will need help, you can accurately define starting points and support them from end to end, improving achievement rates and Ofsted inspection rankings.

But there is growing pressure on educators.

There is a constant battle between supporting learners, retention and success rates and managing finances.

A restricted budget should never be a barrier to proper support for both learners and staff.

Learning Support Funding is available to ensure your learners receive the support they need and so your organisation can scale the resources and level of support you offer to your learners.

By embracing the core principle that no learner should be left behind and incorporating neurodiversity and learner support into your best practices, you can give people a better understanding of how their brain works, help them to make better decisions and change their lives for the better.

In schools, higher/further education and the workplace, teachers, trainers and employers should all be able to respond appropriately and adapt to learners needs because they have visibility of their learners’ cognitive profiles.

So, how do you measure cognition and neurodiversity?

Well, for this, we need to look at some of the specific domains in the brain.