Cognitive Load Theory, Spacing Effect, and Working Memory Resources Depletion: Implications for Instructional Design

Cognitive Load Theory, Spacing Effect, and Working Memory Resources Depletion: Implications for Instructional Design

Ouhao Chen (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Slava Kalyuga (University of New South Wales, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9833-6.ch001

Abstract

In classroom, student learning is affected by multiple factors that influence information processing. Working memory with its limited capacity and duration plays a key role in learner ability to process information and, therefore, is critical for student performance. Cognitive load theory, based on human cognitive architecture, focuses on the instructional implications of relations between working memory and learner knowledge base in long-term memory. The ultimate goal of this theory is to generate effective instructional methods that allow managing students' working memory load to optimize their learning, indicating the relations between the form of instructional design and the function of instructional design. This chapter considers recent additions to the theory based on working memory resources depletion that occurs after exerting significant cognitive effort and reverses after a rest period. The discussed implications for instructional design include optimal sequencing of learning and assessment tasks using spaced and massed practice tasks, immediate and delayed tests.
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Human Cognitive Architecture

Human cognitive architecture is considered as a natural information-processing system that operates based on a set of principles that determine the interaction between the external environment, working memory and long-term memory. These principles might be common to all natural information-processing systems such as human cognition or biological evolution by natural selection (Sweller & Sweller, 2006). The aspects of human cognitive architecture that are relevant to instructional issues can be summarized by five principles.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Worked Example Effect: An instructional effect indicating the superiority of using worked examples rather than problem solving tasks.

Working Memory: A cognitive system with a limited capacity that is responsible for temporarily holding and processing information.

Split-Attention Effect: An instructional effect indicating that for more efficient learning, multiple separated sources of interdependent information must be physically integrated.

Human Cognitive Architecture: The base of cognitive load theory, revealing the relations between working memory and long-term memory.

Working Memory Resources Depletion: A depletion of working memory resources that happens after heavy cognitive processing.

Long-Term Memory: Permanent storage of learned knowledge structures.

Redundancy Effect: An instructional effect indicating that for more efficient learning, any unnecessary information should be eliminated rather than included.

Cognitive Load Theory: An instructional theory for generating effective instructional methods based on knowledge of human cognitive architecture.

Spaced Practice Design (Spacing Effect): An effect indicating the superiority of studying learning materials presented with time spaces between learning tasks compared to studying learning materials presented without time spaces.

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