How does learning happen? Part 2
If I had known a little cognitive psychology when I was a younger teacher, I might have understood that students need a learning environment that not only respects the limits of working memory but that also accounts for a trickier factor: cognitive load.
As Nick Harvey Smith illustrates, cognitive load means that your brain functions like a glass that gradually fills during a learning experience.
Content forms the bottom layer. As we learned last time, too much content and you’ll end up pouring a gallon of water into an 8 ounce glass.
But even if content doesn’t occupy all the space in the glass, the method of delivery can also take up too much space in a learner’s working memory. When that happens, you end up with the same “spillage.”
To dance effectively with the limits of working memory, you must design regular opportunities for learners to process what they’re encountering. This is why experiential learning is so effective: each moment someone learns by doing she is processing the information at hand.
When you design learning experiences, how often are you accounting for:
the complexity of the content?
the method by which learners are encountering that content?
opportunities for the learner to process that content?
And if you are not accounting for these three dynamics, by what other means do you expect learning to happen?
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