How can Cognitive Science help educators manage classroom distractions and build active processes?

Make learning engaging

November 20, 2021 02:36 pm | Updated 06:15 pm IST

Cognitive Science can help make informed decisions about the process of education.

Cognitive Science can help make informed decisions about the process of education.

Simply put, Cognitive Science is the study of mental processes and brain structures in acquiring, storing and using information. The field has multiple dimensions with cognitive psychology, philosophy and neurosciences being some of the more applied fields. Cognitive Science is being researched and used in any industry that requires human intervention and complex decision making. Right from education, smart cars, medical professions to security systems, cognitive science and related technology is making its mark.

The foundation lies in understanding the core of cognitive processes. In education, we start from basic questions like ‘how long can one stay on a particular task before losing focus’, ‘how the brain interprets information’, and ‘how we can manage distractions.’ The objective is to understand how various perceptions like visual, auditory and tactile impact the learner and the process of learning. Educational processes become more engaging if teachers develop a better understanding of cognitive sciences and psychology.

With increasing use of technology in all parts of life, data capture and processing have become a possibility that can be explored and used to impact decisions. The difficult part today is not the absence of technology but its abundance; it becomes vital to test and identify which tools can get the targeted outcomes.

Understand the tool

An educator needs to understand how any teaching/technology tool will be perceived by most learners and what will be the possible impact on visual, auditory and tactile perception. The tools that show more engagement data can be implemented across a wider range of learners. This requires experimentation and trying multiple tools on small groups of learners. So, an understanding and implementation of Cognitive Science and Psychology help in making informed decisions about learner engagement and the tools required.

Cognitive sciences can also guide teacher decisions on how to design learning experiences and provide insights on how to use different components of an active classroom. With data on learner preferences and impact of tools, teachers can map time spent in class, teaching methods and assessment criteria with the students’ learning needs. The physical, mental, emotional and intellectual components of the classroom can be designed for better engagement based on learner perception.

The big questions for educators and education providers are: How do we get every learner in the class to be engaged? What practices have to be implemented in the classroom so that learner distraction can be managed? How to build active learning processes? All of these can be answered by Cognitive Sciences.

Almost every education professional would confirm that managing classroom distractions is a major challenge today. Learners have devices and multiple other sources of distractions. It makes a teacher’s job quite difficult as they are competing against these distractions for attention. This is not to say the learner doesn’t want to study. The problem is that learners think they can multitask and handle the learning as well as their distraction, without realising that they have limited cognitive resources. Cognitive Sciences help teachers in designing experiences that help them win the race for learner attention.


Another implementation of Cognitive Science in education is in designing a ‘learner-centric classroom’. It has been talked about for over a decade but making learning personal to every learner requires a mix of Cognitive Psychology and Cognitive Technology. This can guide the teacher in making performance-focussed learning plans. A teacher can recognise visual and auditory behaviour cues, and get a major share of working memory capacity of learners by making informed decisions.

As classes become technology-enabled and get smarter, Cognitive Science will play a crucial role because, if we don’t see and perceive the situation, we would never be able to visualise abnormalities and won’t be able to diagnose and resolve it.

The writer is Cognitive Scientist and Co-founder of Suraasa

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.