Year

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Education

Abstract

Cognitive load theory (CLT) research has primarily focussed on how instructors and designers of instruction can manage learners’ cognitive load. An emergent area of CLT over the last five years has shifted to providing students with the opportunity to apply CLT principles themselves by teaching them how to self-manage their cognitive load. The rationale for this new direction of CLT research is that with proliferation of online materials it is unlikely that students will always access instructional materials that are compliant with CLT principles. While self-management of cognitive load research has shown some evidence supporting its viability, the focus, to date, has been on the splitattention effect, with most of the research being conducted with university students. This thesis study is the first of its kind that explores the self-management of cognitive load with a focus on another cognitive load theory effect, the redundancy effect, and primary school students.

Three experiments were conducted to investigate the efficacy of teaching upper primary school students how to self-manage extraneous cognitive load when presented instructional materials with obvious redundancy. In each of the three experiments, participants were randomly allocated to one of three instructional conditions: redundancy condition, redundancy-free condition, or redundancy with guidance condition. The instructional material students’ studied in the three experiments was on the water cycle.

Overall, statistically significant findings were only found for mental effort across the three experiments and for instructional efficiency in Experiment 1. However, the results from this study suggest there is potential in pursuing the teaching of primary school students on how to self-manage the redundancy effect for the following two reasons. Firstly, the redundancy with guidance condition outperformed (not at a statistically significant level) both the redundancy and redundancy-free conditions for far-transfer performance test items in all three experiments. Secondly, the means and effect sizes for the redundancy with guidance condition were similar to the redundancy-free condition in each of the three experiments for recall, and near transfer.

This study also identified how the redundancy effect can be evident within instructional materials in a variety of ways, thus demonstrating the complexity of self-managing the redundancy effect. An analytical tool was created to classify the type of redundancy evident in past redundancy effect research and the present study. This analytical tool is then used to provide a framework to guide further research on the self-management of the redundancy effect.

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