Learning and Cognition

Two fundamental assumptions that underlie formal education systems are that students
(a) retain knowledge and skills they acquire in school, and
(b) can apply them in situations outside the classroom.

But are these assumptions accurate? Research has found that, even when students report not using the knowledge acquired in school, a considerable portion is retained for many years and long term retention is strongly dependent on the initial level of mastery. One study found that university students who took a child development course and attained high grades showed, when tested 10 years later, average retention scores of about 30%, whereas those who obtained moderate or lower grades showed average retention scores of about 20%. There is much less consensus on the crucial question of how much knowledge acquired in school transfers to tasks encountered outside formal educational settings. Some psychologists claim that research evidence for this type of far transfer is scarce, while others claim there is abundant evidence of far transfer in specific domains. Several perspectives have been established within which the theories of learning used in educational psychology are formed and contested. These include Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Social Cognitivism, and Constructivism. This section summarizes how educational psychology has researched and applied theories within each of these perspectives.

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