Five Strategies for Optimizing Instructional Materials: Instructor- and Learner-Managed Cognitive Load

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Educational Psychology Review


Researchers of cognitive load theory and the cognitive theory of multimedia learning have identified several strategies to optimize instructional materials. In this review article we focus on five of these strategies or solutions to problematic instructional designs in multimedia learning: (a) the multimedia principle (use visualizations and drawings to complement texts); (b) the split-attention effect or spatial contiguity principle (show texts contiguously or integrated with visualizations); (c) the redundancy effect, alike the coherence principle (remove nonessential learning information); (d) the signaling principle (cue or signal essential learning information); and (e) the transient information effect or segmenting principle (segment or control the pace of animations and videos). Usually, both cognitive theories have investigated solutions that instructors, teachers, and designers should pursue to optimize students’ learning. Here, in a novel approach, we show that these strategies can also be used by learners who want to self-manage their cognitive load and learning process. We provide several examples of both instructor- and learner-managed solutions aligned with these strategies. When assessing which agent, either the instructor or the learner, was most effective, we observed mixed results in the literature. However, the expertise reversal effect may help predict the direction of these effects: novice students may learn better under instructor-managed conditions, whereas more expert students may learn more under learner-managed conditions.

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