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Cognitive theory is a learning theory of psychology that attempts to explain human behavior by understanding the thought processes. The assumption is that humans are logical beings that make the choices that make the most sense to them. Information processing is a commonly used description of the mental process, comparing the human mind to a computer. Pure cognitive theory largely rejects behaviorism on the basis that behaviorism reduces complex human behavior to simple cause and effect. However, the trend in past decades has been towards merging the two into a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral theory. This allows therapists to use techniques from both schools of thought to help clients achieve their goals. Social cognitive theory is a subset of cognitive theory. Primarily focused on the ways in which we learn to model the behavior of others, social cognitive theory can be seen in advertising campaigns and peer pressure situations. It is also useful in the treatment of psychological disorders including phobias. Cognitive theory assumes that responses are also the result of insight and intentional patterning. Insight can be directed to (a) the concepts behind language i.e. to traditional grammar. It can also be directed to (b) language as an operation - sets of communicative functions. A variety of activities practiced in new situations will allow assimilation of what has already been learnt or partly learnt. It will also create further situations for which existing language resources are inadequate and must accordingly be modified or extended - "accommodation". This ensures an awareness and a continuing supply of learning goals as well as aiding the motivation of the learner. Cognitive theory therefore acknowledges the role of mistakes. See Dakin's Novish lesson in which he sets deliberate traps in "The Language Laboratory and Language Learning" by Julian Dakin published by Longman 1973. Dakin: "We must design our lessons and language laboratory tapes so as to invite the learner to make the minimum number of mistakes consonant with, and conducive to, learning new rules. Equally important to the principles underlying the use of "meaningful drills" and also relevant to the role of mistakes in cognitive theory is the association of mentalism with nationalism.

How much cognitive theory do English language teachers need to know? Step 1: make your trainees supply examples of all types of "meaningful" and "meaningless" pattern drills exploiting various relationships Step 2: allow your trainees to experience what it is like to be in a beginners class in a language outside their current knowledge. The "Novish" simulation makes this possible if time is at a premium.

Trainers of English language teachers can achieve practical coverage of cognitive learning theory by reviewing the history of language teaching, especially the period in the mid 20th century when "meaningful drills" were being advocated and the shortcomings of "meaningless drills" were being highlighted. Although drilling and rote learning became subject to considerable prejudice in some educational circles in the late 20th century, no language learner will proceed very far without

recognition of language structure and nobody will succeed in learning much without practice and repetition. Knowledge of the "types of drill" which the accomplished language teacher or informed computer learning program can employ provide a full toolkit for anybody responsible for learning and teaching. A fuller examination of drills is therefore contained below. Another ploy often used by teacher trainers is to put trainee teachers into the situations encountered by language learners. This is often done through demonstrations where new languages (of which trainees have no knowledge) are presented. As homework (especially on MA Courses where "Reflective Learning" features as a component) students are often required to learn new languages (and alphabets!) to a basic level. It is hoped that they will be reminded of the problems, especially the conceptual ones. Often, there is not enough time to do this on short teacher training courses. However, there is a famous chapter which trainees can read where the experience of learning a new language is simulated. This is Julian Dakin's introduction to "Novish" [ a fictitious language designed especially to simulate conditions experienced in real language learning situations ]. The chapter appears in "The Language Laboratory and Language Learning". This is possibly the best book ever written on language learning - the reference in the title to the language laboratory reflects a technology in fashion in the 1960s and 1970s and does not detract from the book's main treatise on language learning. The chapter on Novish is also reproduced in The Edinburgh Course of Applied Linguistics [ a four volume publication which may be easier to find than Dakin's book in second hand bookshops].