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Cognitive And Affective Variables That Should Rule Education

Education must focus on the quality of teaching and learning. The quality of the results, as a concept borrowed from the business sector which is much less complex and interactive than the education sector, is difficult to define with precision, since it combines values, attitudes and achievements which form a part of the most complex areas of study in psy­chology, such as the cognitive, affective and psychomotor areas. However, scientific evi­dence exists which makes it easier to understand many factors of this nature, as well as improving the criteria for the measurement of quality and thus substitute them for the ex­clusively quantitative ones and the inadequate standardized testing mania. 

But the primary condition for the defini­tion and achievement of quality resides precisely in both the diversification of formative education and the acceptance of the existence of learning variables which play a part in the evalu­ation of excellence: quality, in relation to certain general policies and specific aims of the program or area of education; total quality, measured in terms of results of effective­ness, efficiency and relevance, through the all-round evaluation of the system and the teaching-learning process; quality which must focus, in the first place, on the «learning persons» who are the raison d’être of the university and the school. Quality for what education? The following list sums up some of the cognitive and affective skills and dispositions which we consider to be indispensable to the attainment of quality in school and univer­sity formative education.[1]

Cognitive Variables

  • Metacognition as knowledge of ways of thinking, thought structures and the capacity to control and modify cognitive learning processes.
  • Systematized general and specific knowledge.
  • Understanding the languages of science and the humanities.
  • Retention of knowledge.
  • Transfer of knowledge: transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches.
  • Transfer of skills: practical application of knowledge.
  • Capacity for generalization and discrimination of contents.
  • Capacity for symbolic and abstract exchange.
  • Capacity to evaluate results.
  • Capacity to develop concepts and categories.
  • Development of imagination to simulate objects and processes.
  • Capacity to formulate problems and take decisions to solve them.
  • Capacity to search for and process information.
  • Capacity to evaluate information to reduce uncertainty.
  • Knowledge of the value of making mistakes as an aid to rectification.
  • Capacity to grasp the whole and act on the parts.


Affective Variables

  • Development of thought and ethical behavior.
  • Full and responsible exercise of human rights.
  • Democratic cooperative behavior.
  • Simultaneous exercise of rights and obligations for the practice of freedom.
  • Cultural, multicultural, intercultural and international understanding.
  • Development of aesthetic sensitivity.
  • Critical sense and spirit of dialogue with full respect for the ideas of others.
  • Flexibility and tolerance.
  • Development of self-criticism.
  • Ability to listen.
  • Fostering sharing attitudes.
  • Capacity to compete with oneself and not with others.
  • To permanently strive to be free from mental and social prejudices.
  • Motivation to learn and cultivation of learning habits.
  • Development of attitudes conducive to creativity and innovation.
  • Capacity for risk-taking and accepting responsibility for learning.
  • Fostering the inquiring spirit to keep curiosity alive.
  • Moderation of superfluous elements.
  • Learning for enterprise: sense of enterprise and initiative.
  • Learning to care: sense of living in harmony with nature and fellow human beings.
  • Learning to carry on learning: sense of living in harmony with knowledge.

These are variables for the «learning persons» i.e. for students and professors. The selective sample of quality variables drawn from the cognitive and affective areas presup­poses the condition of diversification which any educational institution must exhibit in order to comply with the criteria which identify learning which embraces the different areas of thought and action.

All quality variables must be stimulated from the earliest pre-school age.  Other­wise it is a very difficult, almost impossible, task for the university. However, at any age, the world of knowledge and of feeling is always open to exploration and individual growth. If this has not been achieved at the previous levels of the education system or it has not been attempted, it is never too late to learn, and in no event should this be an ex­cuse for the university institution not to fulfill its obligations. In short, what is required is schools and universities prepared to take risks, which will offer a formative education which transcends the mere acquisition of knowledge. That is to say, educational institutions that turns the subject transmitted into a freely available, spiritually fecund element which stimulates the development of thought and action.

[1] This list of learning variables is based in my research on cultural learning presented in my book, The Psychosocial and Cultural Nature of Education  (2004). Boston: Pearson.

 ©2014 Miguel Angel Escotet. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint with appropriate citing.

Quotes on Education

It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it wel --René Descartes

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Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.

Bertrand Russell

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