Monday, May 6, 2019

Cognitive Load Theory, How Do I Apply It?

After the webinar the other day on Challenge and Risk in the Early Years I was interested in learning more about Cognitive Load Theory - this is a nice little Coles Notes video on the theory for those who are looking to learn more.

From Wikipedia the following:

In cognitive psychology, cognitive load refers to the used amount of working memory resources. Cognitive load theory differentiates cognitive load into three types: intrinsic, extraneous, and germane. 

Intrinsic cognitive load is the effort associated with a specific topic, extraneous cognitive load refers to the way information or tasks are presented to a learner, and germane cognitive load refers to the work put into creating a permanent store of knowledge, or a schema

Cognitive load theory was developed in the late 1980s out of a study of problem solving by John Sweller. Sweller argued that instructional design can be used to reduce cognitive load in learners. Much later, other researchers developed a way to measure perceived mental effort which is indicative of cognitive load.Task-invoked pupillary response is a reliable and sensitive measurement of cognitive load that is directly related to working memory. Information may only be stored in long term memory after first being attended to, and processed by, working memory. Working memory, however, is extremely limited in both capacity and duration. These limitations will, under some conditions, impede learning. 

Heavy cognitive load can have negative effects on task completion, and it is important to note that the experience of cognitive load is not the same in everyone. The elderly, students, and children experience different, and more often higher, amounts of cognitive load. 

The fundamental tenet of cognitive load theory is that the quality of instructional design will be raised if greater consideration is given to the role and limitations, of working memory.

So what does this mean for early childhood educators?

Recognizing that there is a clear difference between adult and child knowledge. These differences are due to developmental increases in processing efficiency. Children lack general knowledge, and this is what creates increased cognitive load in children. Children in impoverished families often experience even higher cognitive load in learning environments than those in middle-class families with more general knowledge and life exposure. These children often do not hear, talk, or learn about schooling concepts because their parents often do not have formal education. When it comes to learning, their lack of experience with numbers, words, and concepts increases their cognitive load. 
We need to help reduce the cognitive load for young children so that they have maximized working memory and ability to transfer learning over into long term memory! 

We can do this in the environment by eliminating extraneous images and sounds. We need to reflect on the 'why' behind all the images and bulletin board displays and other visual and noise creating items we add to our classrooms and do they add to learning or distract from it. Striving to create a calm, quiet inviting space for learners to explore and investigate.

With regards to 'signalling principle' we can remember to ensure we engage the children's full body and senses in the things we really want children to 'retain' the learning from as this deepens the connection in their brain from working memory to long term memory. Make sure that images and print words are simple, relevant and clear.
Gesturing is a technique children use to reduce cognitive load while speaking. By gesturing, they can free up working memory for other tasks. Pointing allows a child to use the object they are pointing at as the best representation of it, which means they do not have to hold this representation in their working memory, thereby reducing their cognitive load. Additionally, gesturing about an object that is absent reduces the difficulty of having to picture it in their mind

Have an amazing day

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much
Be Totallyawake4-life

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