Our Theoretical Base
Our programs in cognitive enrichment are based on two very important theoretical principles developed by Professor Reuven Feuerstein – Structural Cognitive Modifiability and Mediated Learning Experience.
Structural Cognitive Modifiability (SCM) describes the unique propensity of human beings to change or modify the structure of their cognitive functioning (thinking skills) to adapt to changing demands in life situations. This is not only a reflection of the person’s response to external stimuli, and changes in internal conditions, but is also a product of the individual’s active involvement in the process of learning and changing.
SCM is distinguished from biological or maturational changes, and from fragmentary or transient changes that may occur as a result of direct exposure to stimuli that are random and incidental. Change can be described as structural when (1) change in a part affects the whole to which the changed part belongs; (2) when the process of the change is transformed in its rhythm, amplitude and direction; and (3) when the change is self-perpetuating, reflecting its autonomous, self-regulatory nature. Structural cognitive modifiability occurs when the changes are characterized by permanence, pervasiveness, and are generalizable.
Human beings are viewed as open systems, accessible to change throughout their life spans. The concept of SCM holds that humans have the capacity to change under specified conditions of remediation, providing that the quantity and quality of intervention matches the person’s needs. The capacity for change is related to two types of human-environment interactions that are responsible for the development of differential cognitive functioning and higher mental processes: direct exposure learning and mediated learning experience.
For Mediated Learning Experience (MLE) to occur, another human (caregiver, parent, teacher, peer, etc.) interposes him or herself between the stimuli (or the learner’s response) and the learner, with the intention of mediating the stimuli or response to the learner (S-H-O-H-R). This intervention is termed “mediation” and the mediator (initially for a child, the mother or other nurturing parent figure) modifies a set of stimuli by effecting qualities of intensity, context, frequency, and order, and at the same time arouses the child’s vigilance, awareness, and sensitivity.
For example, a parent mediator teaching a child about dangerous objects indicates which objects are dangerous, explains their meaning, and undertakes various forms of “psychological vaccination” to create a sensitivity in the child to direct experience with such objects, and to develop cognitive prerequisites for such direct learning. This mediational intervention helps the child to develop a disposition to attend to the stimuli of mediation, as well as to stimuli to which he or she is being directly exposed. MLE thus frames and filters the learner’s direct experience. Mediation has many potential qualities that are part of the interactional experience: repeating or eliminating various stimuli, relating stimuli in time, space and quality, imbuing experience with meaning.
MLE requires three universal and omnipresent characteristics – (a) intentionality and reciprocity, (b) transcendence, and (c) meaning. In addition, situational variables present opportunities to mediate for (d) regulation and control of behavior, (e) feelings of competence, (f) psychological individuation, (g) sharing behavior, (h) goal seeking, planning, and achieving behavior, (i) competence, novelty and complexity, (j) self change, and (k) an optimistic choice of alternatives. The mediator assesses the situation in which the learning experience occurs, and makes planned and systematic choices to exploit the mediational potential of the situation to encourage cognitive functioning and stimulate modifiability.
Note: The above adapted from Teacher’s Guide for LPAD.
Thinking skills are cognitive skills; therefore, Cognitive Enrichment is the process of improving thinking and subsequent learning skills. The goal of public education is to ultimately produce independent thinkers who can solve problems and engage in life-long learning. As John Dewey said, "all which the schools can or need do for pupils is to develop their ability to think."
Each content area requires thinking. Unfortunately, thinking as a skill is seldom addressed directly in school curricula, like mathematics, history or English. Rather, it is assumed that thinking skills and learning readiness will develop through the study of content. Ideally, they should, but in many cases they don't. Many people come to the classroom or the workplace without the "learning to learn" skills they need to succeed. Cognitive deficiencies make it impossible for them to learn as well as they should, because they are unable to benefit from the content instruction, whether it comes within a public or private school or via job training, and regardless of its quality.
For such students, Cognitive Enrichment is needed and can be accomplished through focused instruction in developing one's thinking skills and subsequent capacity to learn. Cognitive Enrichment is also beneficial for students who do not appear to have deficiencies. Just as the teaching of content is designed to increase each student's understanding within the content domain, so too can cognitive skills be nurtured and enriched for all students.