Integrating Questions and Diagrams to Reduce Cognitive Load for Novice Physicists

I think this will be the last of my problem-solving blogs for a while – it’s a little one about reducing the split-attention-effect.

In this series of blogs, I have suggested strategies to reduce the cognitive load of problems, so that novices can focus attention on the elements you want. This one is about text and diagrams.

From AQA 2016

Because the text is separate from the diagram, and quite wordy, the learner’s attention is split, adding to the cognitive load. This reduces the student’s ability to learn from the experience.

Below, I have adapted the question to minimise the split-attention effect. This leaves more short term memory available for processing.

From AQA 2016

In my last three blogs, I have shared three methods of reducing cognitive load so that novice physicists can learn how to solve problems.

  1. Using Worked Examples to Reduce Cognitive Load in Physics
  2. Going Goal-Free to Learn How to Solve Physics Problems
  3. Reducing the split-attention effect.

The aim is to gradually reduce this support until your students can solve the problems on their own.

I will be rewriting these blogs for my book on Teaching the Big Ideas of Physics, so any feedback would be very welcome.

Thank you,



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