From Cognitive Psychology to Learning Design - Chris Atherton at LT11UK
From cognitive psychology to learning design Dr Chris AthertonUniversity of Central Lancashire @FiniteAttention
Overview• Tufte & Death By Powerpoint• The limits of Working Memory• Schema theory and learning design• Cognitive Load Theory• The use of sparse slides• You’re really reading this, aren’t you.• Look — reading is almost certainly compromising your ability to listen. Really. I’ll get into that shortly.The audience started laughing before I got to the last points, illustrating nicely that they read faster than I can talk.
dniwerSo let’s start again, before the bullet-points. (I think this is kinda pretty.)
Tufte has done some awesome stuff (e.g. the info-to-ink-ratio) but he’s still a bit “shoot the messenger” for my taste.
death by PowerPoint • Tufte & Death By Powerpoint • The limits of Working Memory • Schema theory and learning design • Cognitive Load Theory • The use of sparse slides • You’re really reading this, aren’t you. • Look — reading is almost certainly compromising your ability to listen. Really. I’ll get into that shortly.Here I talk about “Death By PowerPoint” a bit. Google it if it’s new to you, though chances are the sentiment is familiar.
(Wordle.net)Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, rendered using wordle.net. Word size reﬂects frequency of use.
(NPR.org / Wordle.net)NPR asked 4,000 people for three words they remembered from the State of the Union. Salience trumps repetition.
death by PowerPoint • Tufte & Death By Powerpoint • The limits of Working Memory • Schema theory and learning design • Cognitive Load Theory • The use of sparse slides • You’re really reading this, aren’t you. • Look — reading is almost certainly compromising your ability to listen. Really. I’ll get into that shortly.When we gripe that PowerPoint is intrinsically unmemorable, remember that memory is also intrinsically unreliable.
Probably not evil.In other words, don’t shoot the messenger. PowerPoint can be used well, or badly. We’ll come back to this a bit later.
Experiment time. Here I told the audience they would have ten seconds to memorise the information on the next slide.
WTMHYELABPP(10 seconds elapses before I take this slide away)
“Okay, now turn to the person next to you and ﬁgure out: How much of the previous slide can you remember?”
(Miller, 1956)magic number 7 +/- 2 A lot of people recalled around 7 items, probably in part because we tested recall right away.
(Cowan, 2001) magic number 4 In fact, it’s easy to demonstrate that memory for newinformation might be as small as 4(ish) new, unrelated pieces.
WTMHYELABPPBut that’s partly because these 11 pieces of information don’t seem to make any sense.
WTMHYELABPP that’s amore But when I add a clue, suddenly it all makes sense.(I didn’t mean to sing this part; it just came out. Oops.)
WTMHYELABPP that’s amoreNow these 11 pieces of information have become one piece, which illustrates the idea of ‘chunking’ information
“The procedure is quite simple. First, you arrange items into different groups. Of course one pile may be sufﬁcient depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities that is the next step; otherwise, you are pretty well set. It is important not to overdo things. That is, it is better to do too few things at once than too many. In the short run this may not seem important but complications can easily arise.” It’s demonstrably hard to recall or even process thisinformation, because it’s just so vague. What is it about?
doing the laundry“The procedure is quite simple. First, youarrange items into different groups. Ofcourse one pile may be sufﬁcient dependingon how much there is to do. If you have togo somewhere else due to lack of facilitiesthat is the next step; otherwise, you arepretty well set. It is important not tooverdo things. That is, it is better to do toofew things at once than too many. In theshort run this may not seem important butcomplications can easily arise.” Oh, I see. (Bransford & Johnson, 1972)
(e.g., Anderson, 1977) schemaSchema = story or rule of thumb. Having activated our laundry schema, it’s much easier to understand and recall the text.
hanging information up Good learning design bridges the gap between people’sprevious knowledge (the tree) and new info (the decorations)
(e.g., Sweller, 1994) cognitive loadCognitive load theory is a useful framework for thinking about where working memory is being ‘spent’ during learning.
Who likes Japanese food? Even if you love sushi, you can only have so much; there is limited room in the bento.
... unless you ask for no salmon and extra sushi. Bear with me.
working memoryCan you tell where this slightly laboured metaphor is going?
Just as the bento has limited space for your lunch, so workingmemory has limited capacity for the different parts of learning.
Intrinsic DifficultySome of your working memory is taken up by how difﬁcult the task is. Nothing we can do about this; complex is complex.
Intrinsic Delivery DifficultySome of working memory is also consumed by the manner and mode of delivery.
Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty Schema BuildingSome of working memory is used up on ‘good work’, attaching new information to the ‘tree’ of previous knowledge.
Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty day- Schema dreaming BuildingIf none of these is too onerous, maybe you’ll have some space left over for other things.
Delivery Intrinsic Difficulty Schema BuildingWe know that during hard tasks, we have to concentrate more; less room for daydreaming or other trivia.
Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty Schema Delivery BuildingSometimes, a lot of working memory can be taken up by the information-delivery process.
Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty Delivery Schema Building... sometimes maybe at the cost of actually linking the new stuff with your previous knowledge of the subject.
Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty Schema BuildingIdeally, we want as much working memory as possible spare, to help us learn effectively by elaborating on existing schemas.
E x t r Intrinsic a n e o u s GermaneCognitive load theory uses these terms to refer to these different impositions on working memory.
reducing extraneous loadSo surely, one of the aims of good learning design should be to reduce extraneous load and promote germane load?
1. videoOur ﬁrst experiment (Atherton, Morley & Pitchford, in prep.) involved making a video with slides and an audio track.
traditionalThe audio track was consistent for all presentations; the slides varied. Traditional slides were bulleted and info-dense.
sparseSparse slides transitioned more frequently; they each contained less text.
sparse with diagramsThe last condition also had sparse slides, but these also contained diagrams where appropriate.
themes 4 3 2 trad. sparse sparse text text & pics People who watched the video with sparser slides recalled signiﬁcantly more themes afterwards.
2. lectureThat’s okay for video, but what about in-person learning?Here we tried this again, but ‘live’ in the lecture theatre.
traditionalAgain, we had a ‘traditional’ condition where participants saw a set of slides with bullet-points and lots of information.
sparseThe other condition used sparse slides (again, more slides with faster transitions) and tried to keep slide-info to a minimum.
themes 7 * 6 5 4 3 2 1 traditional trad. sparse sparse slides text slidesAgain, we found that those in the sparse text group recalled signiﬁcantly more themes from the presentation.
E xt r Intrinsic an eo us GermaneSo how does this ﬁt in with our model of cognitive load?
Ex tr an eo Intrinsic us Difficulty GermaneOne interpretation is that sparser slides reduce extraneous load, leaving more working memory for schema building.
WTMHYELABPPLet’s come back to Dean Martin for a moment.
WTMHYELSure, working memory is limited, but the phonological and visual parts of the brain each have their own WM store.
WTMHYEL In other words, learners can potentially receive more information if you feed both centres.
death by PowerPoint• Tufte & Death By Powerpoint• The limits of Working Memory• Schema theory and learning design• Cognitive Load Theory• The use of sparse slides• You’re really reading this, aren’t you.• Look — reading is almost certainly compromising your ability to listen. Really. I’ll get into that shortly. So if we think about Death By PowerPoint again ...
death by PowerPoint BoredOverloaded... visual working memory has very little to do, while auditory working memory has to read and listen!
The part of the brain that lights up when it sees pictures of the brain. Mea culpa: forgot attribution here. Sorry!http://ﬂickr.com/photos/quinn/4252155172
The part of the brain that lights up when it sees pictures of the brain.Question everything! There’s evidence that we see‘neuro’-style terminology and our critical faculties just switch off. (Skolnick Weisberg et al., 2008)
Let’s talk! @FiniteAttention FiniteAttentionSpan .Wordpress.com CJAtherton@UCLan.ac.ukThanks to my colleagues Andy Morley and Mel Pitchford,and to Learning Technologies for the invitation to speak :)