Applying Cognitive Science to Education: Thinking and Learning in Scientific and Other Complex Domains

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $12.50
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 55%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (10) from $12.50   
  • New (8) from $20.60   
  • Used (2) from $12.50   


Many students find it difficult to learn the kind of knowledge and thinking required by college or high school courses in mathematics, science, or other complex domains. Thus they often emerge with significant misconceptions,fragmented knowledge, and inadequate problem-solving skills. Most instructors or textbook authors approach their teaching efforts with a good knowledge of their field of expertise but little awareness of the underlying thought processes and kinds of knowledge required for learning in scientific domains. In this book,Frederick Reif presents an accessible coherent introduction to some of the cognitive issues important for thinking and learning in scientific or other complex domains (such as mathematics, science, physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, or expository writing). Reif, whose experience teaching physics at the University of California led him to explore the relevance of cognitive science to education,examines with some care the kinds of knowledge and thought processes needed for good performance; discusses the difficulties faced by students trying to deal with unfamiliar scientific domains; describes some explicit teaching methods that can help students learn the requisite knowledge and thinking skills; and indicates how such methods can be implemented by instructors or textbook authors. Writing from a practically applied rather than predominantly theoretical perspective, Reif shows how findings from recent research in cognitive science can be applied to education.

He discusses cognitive issues related to the kind of knowledge and thinking skills that are needed for science or mathematics courses in high school or colleges and that are essential prerequisites for more advanced intellectual performance. In particular, he argues that a better understanding of the underlying cognitive mechanisms should help to achieve a more scientific approach to science education.Frederick Reif is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Education at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Challenging. Illuminating. Rewarding. A masterpiece of organization and clarity… a privilege to read."

- Joe R.
, American Biology Teacher

The MIT Press

"An excellent example of the contributions that scientists, provided they are willing to cross some disciplinary boundaries, can make to solving important real-life problems.... a veritable gold mine for all those who teach physics or mathematics at high-school or college level. They will find introductory questions for activating students' prior knowledge about standard curricular content as well as stimulating ideas for engaging students in meaningful activities, e.g., through reciprocal teaching or written self-explanations. However, the book's merits go far beyond practical advice. A broad range of academics will find Applying
Cognitive Science to Education
intellectually stimulating." Elsbeth Stern

The MIT Press

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262515146
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 8/13/2010
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Pages: 496
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Frederick Reif is Emeritus Professor of Physics and Education at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

I Basic Issues 1

1 Performance, Learning, and Teaching 3

2 Intellectual Performance 11

II Good Performance 27

II-A Usability 29

3 Important Kinds of Knowledge 31

4 Specifying and Interpreting Concepts 43

5 Interpreting Scientific Concepts 61

6 Managing Memory 85

II-B Effectiveness 101

7 Methods and Inferences 103

8 Describing Knowledge 119

9 Organizing Knowledge 137

II-C Flexibility 163

10 Making Decisions 165

11 Introduction to Problem Solving 189

12 Systematic Problem Solving 201

13 Dealing with Complex Problems 229

II-D Efficiency 255

14 Efficiency and Compiled Knowledge 257

II-E Reliability 271

15 Quality Assurance 273

III Prior Knowledge 287

16 Unfamiliar Knowledge Domains 289

17 Naive Scientific Knowledge 311

IV Learning and Teaching 333

18 Developing Instruction 335

19 Designing the Learning Process: Goals 343

20 Designing the Learning Process: Means 357

21 Producing Instruction to Foster Learning 377

V Implementing Practical Instruction 401

22 Traditional Instructional Methods 403

23 Innovative Instructional Methods 417

24 Some Educational Challenges 439

References 451

Index 465

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)