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From cognitive
psychology to learning
       design
       Dr Chris Atherton

University 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.
niwer
So 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

     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 new
information might be as small as 4(ish) new, unrelated pieces.
WTMHYELABPP



But 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 amore
Now 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 this
information, because it’s just so vague. What is it about?
doing the laundry
“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.”
                  Oh, I see.
          (Bransford & Johnson, 1972)
(e.g., Anderson, 1977)




                   schema

Schema = 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’s
previous knowledge (the tree) and new info (the decorations)
(e.g., Sweller, 1994)




           cognitive load

Cognitive 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
                  memory

Can you tell where this slightly laboured metaphor is going?
Just as the bento has limited space for your lunch, so working
memory has limited capacity for the different parts of learning.
Intrinsic
            Difficulty




Some of your working memory is taken up by how difficult the
  task is. Nothing we can do about this; complex is complex.
Intrinsic
                       Delivery
    Difficulty




Some of working memory is also consumed by
     the manner and mode of delivery.
Intrinsic
                                Delivery
            Difficulty




                                Schema
                                Building


Some of working memory is used up on ‘good work’, attaching
   new information to the ‘tree’ of previous knowledge.
Intrinsic
                           Delivery
      Difficulty




       day-                 Schema
     dreaming              Building


If none of these is too onerous, maybe you’ll have
      some space left over for other things.
Delivery
           Intrinsic
         Difficulty



                              Schema
                             Building


We know that during hard tasks, we have to concentrate
   more; less room for daydreaming or other trivia.
Intrinsic
                           Delivery
       Difficulty




                            Schema
         Delivery
                           Building


Sometimes, 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
                         Building


Ideally, 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
                     Germane



Cognitive load theory uses these terms to refer to these
       different impositions on working memory.
reducing extraneous
             load

So surely, one of the aims of good learning design should be to
     reduce extraneous load and promote germane load?
1. video


Our first experiment (Atherton, Morley & Pitchford, in prep.)
  involved making a video with slides and an audio track.
traditional




The audio track was consistent for all presentations; the slides
   varied. Traditional slides were bulleted and info-dense.
sparse




Sparse slides transitioned more frequently;
      they each contained less text.
sparse with diagrams




The 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. lecture


That’s okay for video, but what about in-person learning?
Here we tried this again, but ‘live’ in the lecture theatre.
traditional




Again, we had a ‘traditional’ condition where participants saw a
    set of slides with bullet-points and lots of information.
sparse




The 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
                                    slides
Again, we found that those in the sparse text group recalled
     significantly more themes from the presentation.
E
                                   xt
                                     ra
              Intrinsic




                                       n
                                        eo
                                          us
                     Germane



So how does this fit in with our model of cognitive load?
Ex
                                 tr
                                    a ne
                                          ou
            Intrinsic                         s
           Difficulty




                       Germane



One interpretation is that sparser slides reduce extraneous
 load, leaving more working memory for schema building.
WTMHYELABPP



Let’s come back to Dean Martin for a moment.
WTMHYEL

Sure, 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

                                     Bored




Overloaded
... 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 even when
    neuroscience-related terminology doesn’t directly
support an argument, we’re still more likely to accept the
 argument if it is present (Skolnick Weisberg et al., 2008)
Let’s talk!
                @FiniteAttention


             FiniteAttentionSpan
                .Wordpress.com


         CJAtherton@UCLan.ac.uk

Thanks to my colleagues Andy Morley and Mel Pitchford,
and to Learning Technologies for the invitation to speak :)

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From Cognitive Psychology to Learning Design - Chris Atherton at LT11UK

  • 1. From cognitive psychology to learning design Dr Chris Atherton University of Central Lancashire @FiniteAttention
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. niwer So let’s start again, before the bullet-points. (I think this is kinda pretty.)
  • 4. 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.
  • 5. 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.
  • 6. (Wordle.net) Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech, rendered using wordle.net. Word size reflects frequency of use.
  • 7. (NPR.org / Wordle.net) NPR asked 4,000 people for three words they remembered from the State of the Union. Salience trumps repetition.
  • 8. 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.
  • 9. 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.
  • 10. Experiment time. Here I told the audience they would have ten seconds to memorise the information on the next slide.
  • 11. WTMHYELABPP (10 seconds elapses before I take this slide away)
  • 12. “Okay, now turn to the person next to you and figure out: How much of the previous slide can you remember?”
  • 13. (Miller, 1956) magic number 7 A lot of people recalled around 7 items, probably in part because we tested recall right away.
  • 14. (Cowan, 2001) magic number 4 In fact, it’s easy to demonstrate that memory for new information might be as small as 4(ish) new, unrelated pieces.
  • 15. WTMHYELABPP But that’s partly because these 11 pieces of information don’t seem to make any sense.
  • 16. 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.)
  • 17. WTMHYELABPP that’s amore Now these 11 pieces of information have become one piece, which illustrates the idea of ‘chunking’ information
  • 18. “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 this information, because it’s just so vague. What is it about?
  • 19. doing the laundry “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.” Oh, I see. (Bransford & Johnson, 1972)
  • 20. (e.g., Anderson, 1977) schema Schema = story or rule of thumb. Having activated our laundry schema, it’s much easier to understand and recall the text.
  • 21. hanging information up Good learning design bridges the gap between people’s previous knowledge (the tree) and new info (the decorations)
  • 22. (e.g., Sweller, 1994) cognitive load Cognitive load theory is a useful framework for thinking about where working memory is being ‘spent’ during learning.
  • 23. Who likes Japanese food? Even if you love sushi, you can only have so much; there is limited room in the bento.
  • 24. ... unless you ask for no salmon and extra sushi. Bear with me.
  • 25. working memory Can you tell where this slightly laboured metaphor is going?
  • 26. Just as the bento has limited space for your lunch, so working memory has limited capacity for the different parts of learning.
  • 27. Intrinsic Difficulty Some of your working memory is taken up by how difficult the task is. Nothing we can do about this; complex is complex.
  • 28. Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty Some of working memory is also consumed by the manner and mode of delivery.
  • 29. Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty Schema Building Some of working memory is used up on ‘good work’, attaching new information to the ‘tree’ of previous knowledge.
  • 30. Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty day- Schema dreaming Building If none of these is too onerous, maybe you’ll have some space left over for other things.
  • 31. Delivery Intrinsic Difficulty Schema Building We know that during hard tasks, we have to concentrate more; less room for daydreaming or other trivia.
  • 32. Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty Schema Delivery Building Sometimes, a lot of working memory can be taken up by the information-delivery process.
  • 33. Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty Delivery Schema Building ... sometimes maybe at the cost of actually linking the new stuff with your previous knowledge of the subject.
  • 34. Intrinsic Delivery Difficulty Schema Building Ideally, we want as much working memory as possible spare, to help us learn effectively by elaborating on existing schemas.
  • 35. E x t r Intrinsic a n e o u s Germane Cognitive load theory uses these terms to refer to these different impositions on working memory.
  • 36. reducing extraneous load So surely, one of the aims of good learning design should be to reduce extraneous load and promote germane load?
  • 37. 1. video Our first experiment (Atherton, Morley & Pitchford, in prep.) involved making a video with slides and an audio track.
  • 38. traditional The audio track was consistent for all presentations; the slides varied. Traditional slides were bulleted and info-dense.
  • 39. sparse Sparse slides transitioned more frequently; they each contained less text.
  • 40. sparse with diagrams The last condition also had sparse slides, but these also contained diagrams where appropriate.
  • 41. themes 4 3 2 trad. sparse sparse text text & pics People who watched the video with sparser slides recalled significantly more themes afterwards.
  • 42. 2. lecture That’s okay for video, but what about in-person learning? Here we tried this again, but ‘live’ in the lecture theatre.
  • 43. traditional Again, we had a ‘traditional’ condition where participants saw a set of slides with bullet-points and lots of information.
  • 44. sparse The other condition used sparse slides (again, more slides with faster transitions) and tried to keep slide-info to a minimum.
  • 45. themes * 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 traditional trad. sparse sparse slides text slides Again, we found that those in the sparse text group recalled significantly more themes from the presentation.
  • 46. E xt ra Intrinsic n eo us Germane So how does this fit in with our model of cognitive load?
  • 47. Ex tr a ne ou Intrinsic s Difficulty Germane One interpretation is that sparser slides reduce extraneous load, leaving more working memory for schema building.
  • 48. WTMHYELABPP Let’s come back to Dean Martin for a moment.
  • 49. WTMHYEL Sure, working memory is limited, but the phonological and visual parts of the brain each have their own WM store.
  • 50. WTMHYEL In other words, learners can potentially receive more information if you feed both centres.
  • 51. 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 ...
  • 52. death by PowerPoint Bored Overloaded ... visual working memory has very little to do, while auditory working memory has to read and listen!
  • 53. 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
  • 54. The part of the brain that lights up when it sees pictures of the brain. Question everything! There’s evidence that even when neuroscience-related terminology doesn’t directly support an argument, we’re still more likely to accept the argument if it is present (Skolnick Weisberg et al., 2008)
  • 55. Let’s talk! @FiniteAttention FiniteAttentionSpan .Wordpress.com CJAtherton@UCLan.ac.uk Thanks to my colleagues Andy Morley and Mel Pitchford, and to Learning Technologies for the invitation to speak :)