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A cognitive theory of learning sees second language acquisition as a conscious and reasoned thinking process, involving the deliberate use of learning strategies. Learning strategies are special ways of processing information that enhance comprehension, learning or retention of information. This explanation of language learning contrasts strongly with the behaviourist account of language learning, which sees language learning as an unconscious, automatic process.
This view leads to a classroom focus on using learning strategies that have been observed in successful language learners and to a view of the learner as an 'information-processor', with limitations as to how much new information can be retained, and who needs strategies to be able to transfer information into memory.
In the classroom
Relevant activities include review and revision, class vocabulary bags, using a scaffolding approach with young learners, analysis and discussion of language and topics, inductive approaches and learner training.