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What is cognitive load theory and why should you care?

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A 5 minute lightning talk giving an overview of cognitive load theory and how we can apply it to managing software development.

First presented at London Web Standards meetup on 25/01/2016

Published in: Education

What is cognitive load theory and why should you care?

  1. 1. Jo Pearce @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble. What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care?
  2. 2. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Information Overload
  3. 3. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care?
  4. 4. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? • There is always a lot to learn • How do we learn without overloading ourselves?
  5. 5. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? The Magical Number 7 ± 2 (George A. Miller, 1956) Working Memory
  6. 6. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? The Magical Number 7 ± 2 (George A. Miller, 1956) Working Memory Information In
  7. 7. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? The Magical Number 7 ± 2 (George A. Miller, 1956) Working Memory (Overloaded) Information In • Stress • Poor concentration • Irritability • Low productivity
  8. 8. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Q: What can we do to work within our limitations? A : We can use Cognitive Load Theory! John Sweller
  9. 9. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? • Defines cognitive load as the total amount of mental effort being used in the working memory • Describes a universal set of principles for managing cognitive load that lead to efficient learning. But, what is Cognitive Load Theory?
  10. 10. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Total cognitive load is comprised of three types: • Intrinsic Load • Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load • Germane (Relevant) Load
  11. 11. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Intrinsic Load Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task being performed. e.g. Learning to juggle 10 balls is inherently more complex than learning to juggle 3.
  12. 12. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Intrinsic Load Imposed by the inherent complexity of the task being performed. Manage by breaking large tasks into smaller ones!
  13. 13. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load Imposed by distractions or tasks which are irrelevant to the goal. • Coping with a loud environment • Unfamiliarity with a development tool • Unreadable code e.g.
  14. 14. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Extraneous (Irrelevant) Load Imposed by distractions or tasks which are irrelevant to the goal. Manage by reducing the number of irrelevant distractions and tasks!
  15. 15. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Germane (Relevant) Load Load imposed by tasks which are relevant to an overall goal. Repetition and context variation help a learner to be able to apply knowledge in a wider variety of situations.
  16. 16. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Germane (Relevant) Load Load imposed by tasks which are relevant to an overall goal. e.g. If the goal is to promote better understanding of a codebase • Vary the areas of the codebase a developer works in • Pair junior developers with those more experienced to gain varied perspectives and skills
  17. 17. @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk What is cognitive load theory, and why should you care? Reduce Irrelevant Load Increase Relevant Load Manage Intrinsic Load ++ = Efficient Learning & Increased Productivity Cognitive Load Theory
  18. 18. Jo Pearce @jdpearce snowthorn.co.uk Non-binary (they/them), developer and science womble. Thanks! Any questions?

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