Cognitivism centres on the mental processes involved in learning, emphasising how learners process, store, and retrieve information. Influenced by theorists such as Jean Piaget and Jerome Bruner, this theory highlights the importance of understanding the internal cognitive structures and the ways they are developed and altered through experience. 

Key Researchers

Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980)
Theory of Cognitive Development, Genetic Epistemology

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who found that children’s thought processes differ significantly from those of adults. His theories highlight that children actively construct their knowledge through interactions with their environment. He suggested that children progress through four distinct stages of cognitive development. Each stage is marked by different cognitive abilities and ways of understanding the world.

  • Sensorimotor Stage (Birth to 2 years): Infants learn about the world through their senses and actions. They develop object permanence, understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen.
  • Preoperational Stage (2 to 7 years): Children begin to use language and think symbolically, but their thinking is still intuitive and egocentric. They struggle with understanding other perspectives and exhibit centration, focusing on one aspect of a situation.
  • Concrete Operational Stage (7 to 11 years): Children start thinking logically about concrete events. They understand concepts of conservation, classification, and seriation, allowing them to perform mental operations on physical objects.
  • Formal Operational Stage (12 years and up): Adolescents develop the ability to think abstractly, logically, and systematically. They can perform hypothetical and deductive reasoning and understand abstract concepts.

Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934)
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), Sociocultural Theory

Lev Vygotsky was a psychologist who focused on how social interactions and cultural context influence cognitive development. He believed that children learn through their interactions with more knowledgeable individuals, such as parents and teachers. Vygotsky’s theory emphasises the importance of language and dialogue in the learning process, proposing that cognitive abilities are socially guided and constructed.

One of his key concepts is the “Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD)”, which describes the range of tasks that a child can perform with guidance but not yet independently. 
ZPD emphasises the importance of social interaction and structured support, where teachers or peers provide temporary assistance to help learners master new skills, gradually removing support as proficiency increases .

Although Vygotsky died at the age of only 38, his work has had a profound impact on education, highlighting the role of social context in learning.

Jerome Bruner (1915 – 2016) 
Discovery learning, Scaffolding

Jerome Bruner was a psychologist whose work significantly influenced cognitive psychology and education. He proposed that learning is an active process where learners construct new ideas based on their current and past knowledge. 

Bruner introduced the concept of scaffolding, where teachers provide temporary support to help learners master new skills, gradually reducing assistance as competence increases. This process of scaffolding directly relates to Vygotsky’s idea of learning within the ZPD, as both approaches focus on facilitating learning by adjusting the level of support based on the learner’s needs. Vygotsky’s ZPD refers to the gap between what a learner can do independently and what they can achieve with guidance. 

Bruner also emphasised the importance of culture and social interaction in shaping cognitive development, and his theory of instruction highlighted the importance of structuring knowledge to be easily grasped by learners. His work laid the foundation for modern educational practices and instructional design.

Albert Bandura (1925 – 2021)
Social Leaning theory

Albert Bandura was a psychologist known for his significant work in social learning theory. His theory suggests that people learn through observing others’ behaviours, attitudes, and outcomes of those behaviours, which he termed as observational learning or modelling.
Bandura’s research, including the Bobo doll experiment, demonstrated how children imitate aggressive behaviours that they witness.

His influence extended beyond psychology, impacting education, social work, and moral development, reshaping our understanding of social learning and behaviour. Bandura’s work underscores the significance of observation and cognition in human learning and development.

Benjamin Bloom (1913 – 1999)
Bloom’s Taxonomy, Mastery Learning

Benjamin Bloom, was an educational psychologist, best known for his groundbreaking work in the education field.
His most enduring contribution is Bloom’s Taxonomy which is a classification system that categorises learning objectives into cognitive levels. This taxonomy has guided educators worldwide in designing effective curricula and assessments. Additionally, Bloom’s research on mastery learning emphasised personalised instruction and corrective feedback to enhance student achievement. Beyond the classroom, he explored talent development, leaving a lasting impact on educational practices and theories. Benjamin Bloom’s legacy continues to shape teaching and learning strategies, emphasising individualised growth and excellence.

The implications of cognitivism
for instructional design

Structured Learning: Instruction should be organised in a structured manner that aligns with the way the brain processes information. This includes breaking down information into manageable chunks to avoid cognitive overload.

Active Learning: Learners should be actively involved in the learning process. Techniques such as problem-solving, critical thinking tasks, and interactive activities can help learners process and retain information more effectively.

Prior Knowledge Integration: Instruction should build on learners’ existing knowledge. Connecting new information to prior knowledge helps learners make sense of new content and facilitates deeper understanding.

Visual and Auditory Processing: Different types of information should be presented in ways that align with how the brain processes visual and auditory data. For example, combining visual aids with verbal instructions can enhance learning.

Feedback and Assessment: Providing timely feedback and assessments helps learners understand their progress and identify areas that need improvement, reinforcing learning and aiding memory retention.

Strengths and limitations of cognitivism
in eLearning for adult learners


Enhanced Understanding
Cognitivism promotes deeper understanding by encouraging learners to make connections between new information and their existing knowledge.

Problem-Solving Skills: It helps develop problem-solving skills through activities that require critical thinking and application of knowledge. 

Practical Application: Emphasises the practical applicability of lessons, which increases engagement and retention among adult learners.


Cognitive Overload
Adult learners can be quickly overwhelmed by too much information at once, leading to cognitive overload.

Working Memory Constraints
The limited capacity of working memory can hinder the processing and retention of large amounts of information.

Cognitive Load Theory

Intrinsic Load

The cognitive effort required to process the material itself. Intrinsic load arises from the inherent complexity of the material being learned.

Extraneous Load

Extraneous load results from poorly designed instructional materials or unnecessary distractions.

Germane Load

Germane load supports learning by encouraging schema construction and meaningful connections.
And emphasises the practical applicability of lessons, which increases engagement and retention among adult learners. 

Instructional material

This is a tutorial to  learn the fundamental techniques of building a React app through building a small tic-tac-toe game. It has a step by step structure that includes code examples to help learners with this.

How this tutorial addresses cognitive load

Intrinsic Load

This tutorial breaks down a rather complex task of building a Tic-Tac-Toe game into smaller, manageable steps, such as setting up the environment, creating components, and adding functionality. This helps manage intrinsic cognitive load by simplifying each step​.

Extraneous Load

The tutorial uses clear, concise instructions with code examples. Each step is explained in detail with visuals, reducing extraneous load by providing clear guidance​.

Germane Load

As learners build the game step by step, the tutorial encourages active engagement, which enhances germane cognitive load​.


Learning Theory


Instructional Design Models


Digital Media Design


Capstone prroject