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Gestalt psychology (which came to prominence in Germany in the early twentieth century) was essentially the study of perceptions and sensations.  Gestaltists believed that consciousness should be the focus of study.  Because of its subjective nature, consciousness is a difficult subject to study.  The prevalent emphasis on scientific method meant that Behaviourism became the focus of psychology because of its scientific approaches (of observation and deductive reasoning).


Cognitive theorists recognise the Behaviourist concepts that much learning involves learners establishing associations (often through repetition and reinforcement) and they stress the importance of positive feedback as reinforcement.  However, they also have a keen interest in understanding the ways in which humans process and store information by the reorganisation of their cognitive structures.





There has been a shift away from teacher-centred methods of delivery towards greater freedom for the student to choose the type of learning that best suits their individual style.  Curriculum design has had to become more flexible.  There is less emphasis on prescribed content (which is forever changing) and a greater emphasis on students understanding the process of learning (meta-cognition).


This has led to interest in memory techniques, mental imagery, problem solving and decision making, NLP and Learning to Learn approaches.





Lev Vygotsky (1896 - 1934)

Jean Piaget (1896 - 1980)

Jerome Bruner (1915 - )