Using feedback reports to support professional learning on cognitive load in special needs environments

Year: 2016

Author: Murphy, Sophie, Dawson, Georgia, Clinton, Janet, Mason, Sarah

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Children’s cognitive load, defined as their attention, cognitive flexibility and working memory, is an important factor in their continued capacity to learn. Despite the recent popularity of ‘brain training’ programs, research suggests there are few benefits from these programs on a child’s ability to learn in the classroom. This may reflect a disconnect between the computerised program and classroom practice. An alternative approach is to provide feedback to teachers about the cognitive load of their classroom instruction to allow them to modify and adapt their interactions with students to better suit the ability of all students.This paper will present the results of a mixed methods study which aimed to identify specific teaching practices and aspects of dialogue that place greatest cognitive load on children in the classroom. Further it sought to understand potential strategies to ensure that the cognitive load of teaching instruction is able to cater for a range of cognitive ability in the classroom with the aim to develop these strategies into a classroom intervention.Underpinned by a systematic review of the literature on cognitive load and teaching practices, this study used transcripts of lessons captured by the Visible Classroom tool to code for frequency of high cognitive load instruction and dialogue in early primary school classrooms. It then provided teachers with suggestions around how they may alter their instructional practice to better accommodate students cognitive load capacities and allowed them to reflect on changes in behaviour and instructional practice that would promote an opportunity to refine the intervention further.This intervention is novel and the first internationally to focus on enabling teachers to understand and adapt their interactions with students to adjust to their cognitive load capabilities in order to help them reach their academic potential.