Performance and Success – Cognitive Thinking
3. How do cognitive skills impact performance and success?
Similar to a medical doctor’s use of ultrasound or an fMRI, it’s possible to “snap a picture” of our underlying cognitive skills. Proper testing allows us to figure out the cause and effect relationships between our learning skills and the academic and work activities they directly impact.
Following are two examples of weak learning (or cognitive) skills:
If a student struggles sounding out and spelling words, he or she almost always has weak auditory processing skills. To sound out and spell words, it is essential to have strong auditory processing skills, which allow one to blend, segment, and analyze sounds.
- The cause of the problem: weak blending, segmenting, and sound analysis.
- The effect of the problem: poor spelling and reading.
To solve a word math problem, it’s essential to picture (visualize) the situation. If a child has difficulty visualizing, he’ll likely have problems with math word problems, memory, and comprehension.
- The cause of the problem: weak ability to create mental visual images.
- The effect of the problem: poor memory, comprehension, and problem solving.
There is a direct connection between specific skills and successful learning. In the above examples, the student can expect to improve his ability to read and spell words after correcting and strengthening the underlying skills of blending, segmenting, and sound analysis. Solving math word problems will be easier after improving visualization skills.
This leads to an obvious fact. If you can identify a child’s cognitive skill weakness(es), you can then apply the right answers to correct the underlying problems.
Cognitive Thinking — Assessment
4. How can we determine the strength of cognitive skills?
Thankfully, we have two options for assessing the strength of cognitive skills: observation and testing.
Option 1: observation
By investing considerable time and effort, a parent or some other observer can list all the activities that are difficult for a child. It is then a relatively straightforward process to determine which underlying skills are critical to successfully complete those activities. Most likely one or more of the mental skills is weak and is therefore the cause of the student’s poor performance.
The problem with this kind of observation and analysis is that it might take quite a while (years, in fact) to develop the observation capabilities needed. Furthermore, it requires comprehensive knowledge of cognitive skills and the part each skill plays in academics and other pursuits. Most people don’t have adequate knowledge of cognitive skills for such extensive observation. And even with that knowledge, you would still want to test those skills objectively to confirm the accuracy of your observations and evaluations.
To illustrate, think about it this way: even a highly skilled auto mechanic should not depend solely on the symptoms you tell him about, or even what he hears, smells, and sees when you bring your car in for service. Instead, he takes the car into the garage, connects sophisticated diagnostic equipment, and goes through specific tests to see if his first impressions were accurate. It’s exactly the same with cognitive skills. Objective testing, instead of relying on observation, is the most reliable way to identify and measure underlying cognitive skill strength.
Excerpts of the book Unlock the Enstein Inside by Dr. Ken Gibson