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Easing the Cognitive Load on Students to Enable Deep Learning

In this first author chat episode of 2021, Australia’s own Ollie Lovell, author of Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory in Action (John Catt Educational), shares his thoughts on how particular learning methods have varying effects on students’ working memories. Lovell has established himself as an educator who likes to dig deep into the research through his popular Education Research Reading Room podcast. 

According to Lovell, there’s a site of consciousness where students’ thinking and memories are most affected by a load of information placed upon them by teachers in a classroom. One of the challenges teachers face is they can’t go inside a student’s mind to figure out what is ticking in response to learning. “Cognitive load theory opens a window into student’s minds and helps us to see in more detail the kind of cognitive processes that are going on behind the scenes,” explains Lovell. 

As you listen to the interview, think through the following questions, and consider your views on cognitive load theory and the cause and effect relationship between teachers’ actions and student outcomes.

• What is your knowledge of cognitive load theory? What benefits would you expect to see if more educators understood it?

• While research often identifies the root cause of situations in set past environments, it’s important that we use evidence to create evidence-based practices; meaning we are putting that research into meaningful action. Are you interested in finding more resources that translate research into best practices?

• When trying to help students learn, how are you handling split attention and bringing instruction closer together to reduce students’ cognitive load?

• The redundancy effect tells us that less can often be more. How are you as a teacher recognizing that sometimes additional information can distract student learning and overload working memory?

• When it comes to professional development, are you establishing a curious mindset that asks, ‘What are the goals of a given approach and the mechanisms behind it?’ Do you feel by engaging in PD in this fashion, the concepts of research would take better hold?

Learn more about Ollie Lovell’s book, Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory in Action, and more great John Catt Educational publications, by visiting us.johncattbookshop.com

About Ollie Lovell

Oliver (Ollie) Lovell is the author of a new book Sweller’s Cognitive Load Theory in Action, published by John Catt Educational. He is a secondary mathematics and physics teacher and head of senior mathematics in Melbourne, Australia. He has an insatiable curiosity for all things teaching and learning and finds few things more enjoyable than gaining new insight into what makes learning happen.

For the past four years, Ollie has been interviewing educational leaders worldwide on the Education Research Reading Room podcast, dissecting their theories, and translating research insights into simple and actionable takeaways.

You can find Ollie on Twitter at @ollie_lovell or at www.ollielovell.com


Cognitive Load Theory book cover

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