Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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3. Building on What We Know -
Cognitive Processing
“We process information, efficiently or inefficiently depending on what the context is, whether we can hook it to what we’ve learned before, whether there’s some advanced organizers that let us know where the information is heading, and we also tend to process differently, some of us more orally, some more visually, some more kinesthetically. If teachers understand how people process information, they can organize information in the classroom, so that there’s a better chance that in fact, students will understand it, and will have a way to remember it, use it, and apply it in a variety of situations.”
Linda Darling-Hammond
students at aquarium

Key Questions:
  • How do we process information so that we can use it effectively later?
  • How can teachers organize learning to support student understanding?
boy writing on board

Learning Objectives:

  1. Information processing – Teachers will understand how information is received, organized, and remembered.
  2. Associations and connections – Teachers will become familiar with strategies for helping students to make associations and draw connections among concepts and for enhancing memory and information use.
  3. Novices and experts – Teachers will understand how experts and novices differ in how they solve problems and use knowledge. Teachers will consider how to organize instruction to encourage the development of expert strategies.

Video Program

The role of prior knowledge, expectations, context and repetition/practice in both processing and using information and making connections are covered in this episode. Fe MacLean, a first grade teacher at Paddock Elementary School, Milan, Michigan, and Sandie Gilliam, a ninth and tenth grade mathematics teacher and Kris Neustadter, a special education teacher at San Lorenzo Valley High School, Felton, California, are featured in this episode. Stanford University professor Roy Pea augments the teachers' segments with expert commentary.

Key Terms - New in this Session


cognitive processing

cognitive psychologists

conceptual understanding

expert knowledge

hierarchical presentation strategy



mental models


novices’ knowledge



top-down presentation strategy

Go to related support materials

Next Session: 4. Different Kinds of Smart – Multiple Intelligences

Previous Session: 2. Learning As We Grow – Development and Learning



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