Closure (psychology) - Need For Cognitive Closure in Education

Need For Cognitive Closure in Education

Formal education environments, such as elementary and secondary schools, present opportunities for learners to acquire new knowledge and skills, and to achieve deep, domain-specific conceptual mastery which, through well-designed pedagogical guidance and academic study, may enhance future career readiness, civic engagement, and general well-being. However, although it is understood that the basic principles of learning assert the importance of attending to students’ prior knowledge, fostering conceptual understanding, and cultivating metacognitive awareness, students must also become engaged and be willing to tolerate and cognitively work through the intellectual ambiguity often associated with exposure to novel information and tasks.

Yet for students who have high need for cognitive closure, this phenomenon may inadvertently lead to the inhibition of cognitive functions and processes essential to the learning process, so that they can maintain their prior certainty and/or perceived permanence of personally or socially important ideas, even if those ideas or knowledge are distinctly unrelated to any specific content or information being presented in the classroom. In instances such as these, an individual’s desire for cognitive closure in another area may outweigh her/his motivation to expend cognitive resources toward learning new information. As a result, the student may appear uninterested and susceptible to under-achieving e.g. poor grades or not performing to expected levels).

Unfortunately, in the absence of understanding and consideration of how need for cognitive closure may influence academic and/or achievement motivation, educators may erroneously conclude that a student does not have a desire to learn or that she/he has a cognitive, psychological, intellectual, or behavioral deficiency that is impeding the learning process. This is not to suggest that need for cognitive closure is a suitable explanation for all learning problems; however, in working with students who appear to be experiencing learning challenges manifested through amotivation or low motivation, it would not be unreasonable to explore need for cognitive closure as a potential factor.

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