Monday, February 18, 2013

Post 5: Memory, Learning, and Instructional Design

Question: How might your knowledge of the memory processes guide your instructional decisions?

No one technique or presentation will met the memory demands of all learners. I hope to provide opportunities for students with a variety of learning styles to be successful.

In an article by Ruth Clark and Gary Harrelson, Designing Instruction That Supports Cognitive Learning Processes, we find:

Because working memory is a limited-capacity processor, instructional techniques that reduce cognitive load have been proven to improve learning effectiveness and efficiency. This is especially true of novice learners, who are most susceptible to cognitive overload.Numerous load-management techniques have been reported in recent literature. We describe several here, including the modality principle, the contiguity principle, the chunking of lessons and placement of practice exercises, and the use of worked examples.
Particularly in elementary grades, I think there is great benefit in having shorter lessons, chunked into self-contained and manageable bits. The lesson size or duration can be adjusted based on the age and attention of the group. I read a general guideline of age corresponding to minutes per lesson. For a group of 12 year olds, keep your lesson to about 12 minutes before breaking for activity, practice, or another topic.  As an example, don't try to teach a complex 30-minute lesson to a group of 10 year olds. Try 3 shorter, 10-minute lessons instead.
I also like the idea of examining worked examples (though you see this much more often in math and science). Presenting and walking through a research process before executing it gives everyone a sense of direction before setting out on one's one project.
Ultimately, performing the tasks will help each student commit research tasks to memory, so my instruction will certainly include lots of practice and room for trial and error.

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