In the past the two words cognition and learning have been interchangeable and thought to mean one and the same thing. But in modern times we know that they imply two completely different things. But the relationship between the two entities is such that one cannot exist without the other.
Even at the grass root level of a childcare centre in Sengkang teachers and care givers are starting to understand the difference of the two terms and shaping the way they teach and interact with the kids accordingly. The definition of learning is the process of acquiring a set of skills or certain knowledge. Cognition is defined as the processes involved in acquiring those skills or knowledge, and includes entities such as thinking, knowing, remembering and problem solving.
In order to be able to learn a set of skills or acquire some knowledge you need to make use of a blend of cognitive functions. For example a child in preschool will learn how to read by making use of different cognitive functions like remembering, memorizing and problem solving. So this proves that we have to first make sure that children are taught how to effectively utilize these cognitive functions before we push them into learning things.
Cognitive development occurs in four stages which are the sensorimotor stage, preoperational stage, concrete operational stage, and formal operation stage. It takes a child from birth up to their early adulthood years to comprehensively develop these cognitive functions. And most of these functions develop mainly with interaction with the environment. For example it is all about letting the child explore, allowing them to enhance their sensory and motor experiences during the first few years of their life. If we don’t give the child the freedom of exploration then we are impeding this development.
Learning on the other hand is a different matter altogether. Children learn by experimenting and the trial and error method much like the adults. Learning comes with experience. This is evident in the way a child tries to reach out for a toy. If she can’t just grab it she will try to roll towards it. If rolling over also doesn’t work then she will try to scoot or crawl towards the object. It’s all about trying various methods until you achieve your goal and continues from childhood to adulthood. And the process of learning always remains the same regardless of the age.
As such we can see children should be given every opportunity to develop their cognitive processes which will ultimately allow them to learn new skills and hold them in good stead for the future.