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Cognitive Skills and Their Effect on Learning

Sponsored by Arab International Academy

Cognitive skills are fundamental to the learning process. These are the skills your brain uses to process, store, retrieve and analyse information. Learning can be challenging if one of these skills is weak. 

Learning begins with perception. It is how our brains pick up auditory or visual information. When the brain receives a stimulus, such as a verbal instruction given by the teacher, it will store it either in the short-term memory for direct use or in the long-term memory for later use. However, if a student has a deficiency in the selective, divided or sustained attention, their ability to focus on a task despite distractions, complete a task on time or multitask will be affected. 

According to oxfordlearning.com, cognitive skills are an accurate indicator of an individual’s ability: they “separate the good learner from the so-so learner.” As a result, if one or more cognitive skills are weak, learning will be a challenge. For instance, a student who has poor auditory memory skills may struggle in recognising sounds in a word: therefore, his writing or reading will consist of letter omissions or substitutions. On the other hand, a student who has poor attention skills might find difficulties completing a task on time. This explains why certain students may need consistent reminders to finish a project or struggle in focusing on a task in the presence of external distractions. These students usually tend to talk, move about or have behavioural issues. Moreover, students who have difficulties in their logical skills will be unable to solve a problem or find a solution. These difficulties, identified by teachers, will affect the students’ learning. 

Developing cognitive skills and practicing several techniques and strategies will help the student get to a point where she or he can generalise these strategies and techniques and use them in real life and classroom settings. 

We strengthen our brain through practice. The more we use and master specific techniques and strategies, the more successful we become in memorising, applying, analysing and interpreting information. 


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