What Are Cognitive Skills?

What Are Cognitive Skills?

Cognitive Skills

The core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention.


Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt through forming new neural connections throughout life. The brain’s ability to change both its physical structure and its functional organization in response to experience, demonstrate how the brain can adapt and fundamentally enhance it’s capacity to learn more efficiently when cognition is properly targeted.


Refers to knowledge of how learning occurs, awareness of one’s learning ability, and the ability to regulate learning behaviors to achieve a desired goal. It involves a learner’s ability to plan, monitor and assess their learning. Metacognition plays a significant role in a student’s academic achievement across disciplines and has been identified as a key differentiator between sophisticated, successful learners and those who struggle, especially at learning independently. Weak Metacognition can “mask” the performance of underlying skills, like Long-Term Memory, because the learner is struggling to manage the skills needed for the learning task. In this example, a student struggling with test taking may be thought to have a weakness in memory that is actually a weakness in Metacognition.

Executive Function

A set of complex skills that manage our behaviors relating to setting and completing goals; it relies on the strength of prefrontal lobe skills (such as attention, working memory, and processing speed) to allow our brains to properly manage, organize, and act on information.


A skill that requires you to selectively and continuously concentrate while ignoring other information. It is our attention that allows us to concentrate for a long period of time, shift our focus between two or more things, concentrate on one thing while ignoring all distractions, and focus on two or more things simultaneously.

Working Memory

Memory in action; the ability to remember and use information actively while thinking or completing a task. Working Memory is a critical skill, playing a strong role in a learner’s ability to encode and retrieve information (Long Term Memory) as well as the ability to successfully manage one’s thinking and actions towards a goal (Executive Functioning).

Processing Speed

The pace at which you take information, make sense of it, and begin to respond; it is a reflection of mental efficiency. Input refers to the amount of time it takes a person to understand and combine information, and output refers to the amount of time it takes a person to respond, which might include reacting to a situation or making a decision. Integration is the stage between input and output where information is being interpreted and sent to Working Memory/Long-Term Memory.

Long Term Memory

Memory that requires storing information and being able to recall that information after a long period of time. Semantic Memory refers to our collection of facts, meanings, concepts and knowledge that we have learned. Episodic Memory refers to details of time, place, and context, as well as aspects beyond the facts of an event. Long Term Memory is highly malleable and easily improved through the application of evidence-based techniques and strategies.


An internal state or condition that affects decisions and behaviors; it activates behavior and gives it direction.

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