The Mediated Learning Experience



Where it all Began: In my early years of being a speech-language pathologist, I was introduced to the mediated learning experience through an intensive week-long “Instrumental Enrichment” workshop. Instrumental Enrichment is a cognitive curriculum that utilizes Mediated Learning and develops the fundamental mental skills required for Learning. I bought it hook, line, and sinker! The theory and practice of this learning experience helped to build my therapy approach over the next three decades and witness significant increases in skill ability with my students.

Mediated Learning originated with a man by the name of Ruven Feuerstein (1921-2014). Specifically, he was a clinical, developmental, and cognitive psychologist who believed in the resiliency of humanity. Through his research, he demonstrated that despite circumstances (socio-economic status, culturally diverse, gifted, learning disabled, behavioral profile, cognitive abilities, etc), an individual’s learning potential was modifiable. Subjects increased their abilities in academics, social-cognitive skills, and language for thinking, resulting in a marked jump in formal cognitive subtest scores. The research behind Instrumental Enrichment is significant and proven for this evidence-based method of instruction. Feuerstein’s method is utilized around the world in dozens of countries.

Mediated Learning Defined:

The “Mediated Learning Experience” (MLE) is a theory that believes that an individual’s learning potential can be improved despite cognitive or other challenges. It is facilitated through social mediation between the student and the mediator as indirect Learning rather than direct Learning. Additionally, mediation “allows learners to build and modify their capacities through structured learning, through which they acquire new skills, behavior patterns, awareness, & a set of strategies that can potentially be generalized to new experiences and stimuli.” (Profectum, 2018).

Similarly, Vygotsky’s theory of “Zone of Proximal Development” (ZPD) introduces that mediated strategies can advance a child’s performance toward their highest learning potential (D. Tzuriel). This is something that a static test score cannot describe or predict. Therefore, Dynamic Assessment instruments are perfect with this instructional method. Dynamic Assessment is a series of steps to determine “language learning ability” rather than using standardized assessments.

However, this social mediation creates an improved response in the learner on the higher end of their cognitive potential that can be transferable to various environments. In turn, it works to improve the “feeling of competence” (A. Scott, 2020) in the learner and build “independent thinkers” (L. Davis, 2020). In this way, mediated Learning supports the development of metacognition (the process of thinking about how we think and learn) through metacognitive strategies.

Mediated Learning Principles:

Using mediated Learning must be intentional, and it envelopes three main principles:

  • Intentionality & reciprocity
  • Meaning & Significance
  • Generalization – transcendence

Undoubtedly, it is essential to assess, adjust, and then challenge your students (similar to dynamic assessment or the response to intervention models (RTI)). Remember to lead your students to the correct response/behavior rather than providing the expected response. This builds confidence, a sense of control, and neural pathways for future Learning.

Let’s think about this simple analogy – growing a sprout:  

  • Prepare the soil – develop a relationship with the student/client
  • Put a seed into the soil – therapy goal and discuss a plan
  • Provide sun so that it will sprout – instructional program or specially designed instruction (SDI)
  • Water the planted seed – clinician’s skill set
  • Add fertilizer to support growth–mediated learning techniques
  • Development of fruit – results of mediated experience
  • Ability to grow fruit in a variety of settings – generalization

Why use it?

As speech-language pathologists and special educators, mediated Learning provides us with a strategy or set of tools that improves the learning potential of our impaired or disabled students/clients. Furthermore, it proposes that “new neural pathways can be created” despite age, experience, or challenges, which is our responsibility to facilitate (L. Davis, 2020). Mediation is outside of the programs and resources that we use on a daily basis but can be integrated into most, if not all, of them. So, our learners get the benefit not only from our therapy and teaching but also from an evidence-based learning method. This method encourages an “expectation” or “possibility” of our students/clients “reaching their potential” (M. Wilder, 2020).

How to Use it:

Finally, here are some examples in order to facilitate a mediated learning experience along with metacognitive strategies:

  • Focus attention on the topic.
  • Motivate the student with content and a supportive relationship.
  • Set up a supportive environment that consistently provides ample thinking time and allows risk-taking, exploration, and openness.
  • Foster feelings of competency by “sequencing the task, organizing the environment, and providing occasions to ensure success” (D. Tzuriel)
  • Support self-regulating behaviors through modeling, slowing response time to decrease impulsivity, task analysis, and metacognitive strategies (D. Tzuriel)
  • When tasks are complex, encourage perseverance and that acquiring new skills takes time.
  • Provide a clear objective or purpose for instruction and “bridge to social, academic, and life experience” (L. Davis)
  • Collaborative goal setting and reflection (How will you know you have learned it? How would you show it?)
  • Repeated focus on objective 
  • Don’t provide answers but guide using scaffolding strategies or indirect support (i.e., gestural and visual cues, phoneme cues of initial sound, hints, cues to reflect on mental images/related info/experience) 
  • Frame comments/questions and discussion in order to lead the student’s thought process towards making connections with life, experiences, curriculum content, etc
  • Ask thoughtful questions with a focus on “how” and “why” questions and lead toward expected answers.
  • Encourage the student to go beyond the content by facilitating discussion with questions that require analysis, evaluation, and synthesis/application (i.e., What if…..?, How would you…..?, Could this apply this to…..? Would this be true if…..? What does this mean? Why did….? What conclusion…..? Is there another way to…..? etc.)
  • Look for commonalities, comparisons, and categorization within content/experiences/etc.
  • Support organization/breakdown of information into components.
  • Facilitate considering the data from multiple perspectives.
  • Teach “rules and principles” for application (D. Tzuriel), infer
  • Prompt for oral/written/signed expression of the process, information, or conclusions to support communication of learned information

Read also: Patterned Learning AI: A Detailed Overview.