The single most important thing for teachers to know…

WIliam CLT

Dear Reader,

There is a lot being written about Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) and how important it is. I have written this blog to share my understanding – please send me corrections, recommendations and advice.

My own understanding has been developed through:

  • Hattie’s ‘The Science of How We Learn”
  • Willingham’s “Why Students Hate School”
  • Kellog’s “The Psychology of Writing”
  • Oliver Caviglioli’s summary of Sweller’s “Cognitive Load Theory”

My aim it to add something useful for teachers. I am a teacher, not a psychologist. Please send me corrections and recommendations so that I can improve this post.

Thank you for taking the time to read it. I hope it is useful.

Ben

Cognitive Load Theory, and How to Use It

Here is my explanation for how cognitive load theory works and how to use it.

CLT schematic (2)
A Model Of Cognitive Load Theory

First comes the model of the mind.

In my simplified version of the model, there are three elements: short term memory, long term memory and external memory.

Long-Term Memory

Our long term memory stores knowledge and schemata – knowledge organised in useful ways. Schemata include:

  • social knowledge – people, interactions, relationships.
  • subject knowledge – e.g. knowledge about astronomy or the Tudors or rivers.
  • reading knowledge – how to decode, vocabulary, knowledge about layout, diagrams etc.

Our aim as teachers is to develop our students’ long-term memories. This what makes students more knowledgable, better problems solvers and more creative.

Short-Term Memory

Short term memory is where we store information which we need to use to complete a task, but which is not stored in our long-term memories. The information might include:

  • data to solve the task.
  • information about the task.
  • relevant processes.
  • novel social interactions/relationships.

The important thing for teachers to remember is that the short-term memory is easily overloaded – three things to remember is usually too much. If you are asking students to carry out a novel task collaborating with new people using data they haven’t memorised, and hope that they will be able to reflect on their learning at the same time, you may be out of short-term memory, and out of luck.

External Memory

When the task gets tricky, short-term memory gets strained. That’s why we resort to counting on finders, scribbling on the backs of envelopes, and working with someone else. Making use of external memory is a powerful strategy to relieve some of the pressure on short term-memory. Teachers should show students how to make use of it.

Using CLT in Lessons

When our students learn, they are developing the schemata in their long-term memories. Our main job as teachers is to boost students’ schemata. This means thinking hard about what we want our students to be able to recal instantly and with little effort.

The key strategy suggested by CLT is reducing the amount of extraneous information held in short-term memory. The tasks you set should be challenging, but you overload short-term memory, the student will learn little.

CLT schematic learning
Suggestions for Improving Learning using CLT

I have written about several methods for improving learning using Cognitive Load Theory in previous blogs:

Using worked-examples and completion-problems to reduce cognitive load.

Reducing cognitive load by going goal-free and using cooperative learning.

Reducing the split-attention effect.

I think cooperative learning strategies are going to play an increasing role n the classroom as we develop our teaching in the light of CLT. I am currently working with Jakob Werdelin on develping cooperative reading strategies and will write more on this soon.

Ben

 

 

13 Comments

  1. You actually make it seem so easy together with
    your presentation however I to find this matter to be actually one thing that I feel I’d by no means understand.
    It sort of feels too complex and very broad
    for me. I’m looking forward in your subsequent put up,
    I will attempt to get the dangle of it!

    Like

  2. Hey there I am so thrilled I found your web site,
    I really found you by accident, while I was researching on Askjeeve for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a tremendous
    post and a all round interesting blog (I also love
    the theme/design), I don’t have time to browse it all at
    the minute but I have bookmarked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I
    have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep
    up the great job.

    Like

  3. Unquestionably consider that which you said. Your favorite reason seemed
    to be on the web the easiest thing to understand of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed whilst other
    folks consider issues that they just don’t realize
    about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top and outlined out the whole thing
    without having side-effects , other people can take
    a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thanks

    Like

  4. I have fun with, cause I found exactly what I used to be taking a look for.
    You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day.
    Bye

    Like

  5. Hiya very nice website!! Guy .. Excellent ..
    Amazing .. I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds additionally?
    I’m glad to find numerous helpful info right here in the put up, we need develop more techniques on this regard,
    thank you for sharing. . . . . .

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s