• Destiny Yarbro

Learning and thinking occur in the context of learners’ beliefs about cognition

Learning and thinking occur in the context of learners’ beliefs about cognition, which differ as a function of personal, social, and cultural factors.”

A few years ago, I read the book “Mindset” by Carol S. Dweck. The idea that how we perceive our ability to learn can impact our success in learning was new to me. I believe this book discussed what the quote above is saying about student learners. Learning about fixed mindsets (touted by entity theorists) and growth mindsets (promoted by incremental theorists) in Dweck’s book clarified Schunk’s statement above that “the context of learners’ beliefs about cognition” has a significant impact (for better or for worse) on learning (Mangels et al., 2006; Schunk, 2012, p. 257)


The social cognitive approach seems to agree with the first part of Schunk’s quote in that it emphasizes that learning mainly happens through thought and the vicarious observation of others (Schunk, 2012, p.454). As Schunk (2012) puts it, “Thinking resides in the mind rather than in interaction with persons and situations” (p. 230). This approach seems to disagree with the second part of this quote as it posits that the “processes of learning and thinking are relatively uniform across persons” rather than taking into account what differs between learners as a results of the various factors listed in the Schunk quote above (Schunk, 2012, p. 230).


With the constructivist approach emphasizing learning by doing and in a social environment, it seems to de-emphasize the role of the learner’s beliefs about if and when they are able to learn. The TARGET factors listed in Schunk (2012) are more behavior-oriented and place (in my opinion) almost undue focus on exterior reinforcers by the teachers rather than interior motivation on the part of the students (p. 255). Constructivism does agree with the quote, however, that “learners create their own learning” and create their own meaning in what they learn, which does ring of a “growth mindset” and the idea that a student’s perception of their ability to learn does impact what learning they create (Schunk, 2012, p. 230; Dweck, 2006).


Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Ballantine Books.

Mangels, J. A., Butterfield, B., Lamb, J., Good, C., & Dweck, C. S. (2006). Why do beliefs about intelligence influence learning success? A social cognitive neuroscience model. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 1(2), 75–86. https://academic.oup.com/scan/article/1/2/75/2362769.

Schunk, D. H. (2012). Learning theories: an educational perspective (6th ed.). Pearson. https://www.researchgate.net/file.PostFileLoader.html?id=53ad2847cf57d75c068b45c5&assetKey=AS%3A273549456019456%401442230680395

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