Using Cognitive Principles to Improve Instructional Procedures

Year: 1993

Author: Chandler, Dr. Paul

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Recent cognitive research indicates that many commonly used instructional techniques are inadequate as they overload limited working memory and interfere with the two primary components of learning, namely, schema acquisition and automation. For example, data are available indicating that instructional formats which unnecessarily split attention between referring sources of information or contain additional redundant sources of information seriously interfere with the learning process (Chandler & Sweller, 1991; 1992; Sweller, Chandler, Tierney & Cooper, 1990). Several short term experiments and long term field studies in both educational and industrial settings have shown that alternative, cognitively based instructional packages designed to reduce the burden on working memory are superior to traditional techniques used by educators for generations. This paper explores the conditions under which these alternative instructional techniques are likely to be most beneficial. It suggests that when information has a high intellectual component, then the instructional format becomes critical and cognitively based instruction is highly effective. Where the intrinsic nature of the information imposes fewer intellectual demands, then the format of instruction is not as important (Sweller & Chandler, in press). A number of studies which support these hypotheses using computer based materials and other technical based equipment are discussed.