Well, hi everyone. And welcome back. I've been away for the last two weeks. Actually. I've been down with COVID during the school holidays, which has been a nice chance for me to take a break. I think it's been the best way to describe it. I was sick for a little bit, but mostly because it's my whole family. They've kind of had it gone through the kids and me and my wife. It's nice to be back doing things and to be bringing you another episode tonight. So today we're gonna be looking at applying cognitive load through. This is something that I actually presented on the day that I came down with with COVID I presented on this topic for one of my friends through an online zoom thing. So it was nice in that sense.
So I'm looking forward to chatting to you about that today, but before I dive into cognitive load, I just wanna remind everyone that my book work less teach more, which is all about helping teachers to be more effective, to reduce your workload and help you to be able to live a life you love while also being a great teacher in the classroom.
If you would like to grab a copy of that, you can get one for free. Basically. You just have to cover post and handling. So head over to teacherspd.net/freeWLTM for work, less, teach more you'll land on a page. That will give you more information about the book and also show you where you can just pay for postage and get one of these sent out to you, which I think would be great.
Now, for those of you don't know what cognitive load is, I'll start by just giving you very brief, basic kind of definition of it for me. When I think about it, I think about it as the amount of resources that can be used in our working memory. And so whenever we're doing learning, we're using our working memory, particularly to try and understand things, to manipulate things and that's, that's working memory, right? It's different. Or sometimes people think of it like short term memory, but it's not short term memory. It's, it's called working memory because it's what you can, what you're working with in your brain, with your learning or with what you are talking about and all those kinds of things. That's, that's what cognitive load is. It's about how many resources can you use? What, what kind of load can you have in your working memory?
So let's start by just talking about three different types of load. There are three clear types that exist in the research that I've seen so far. So there is what's called intrinsic load, which is the load that comes with the actual content itself. So yeah, learning one plus one is not as hard as learning algebra. And I'm sure that goes up even further when you're looking to like project our motions and physics and other things like that. So as the content itself gets heavier or gets more in depth or more difficult to understand that's intrinsic loads. So as teachers, we generally
Have no control over this. It's dictated by our government systems that tell us what our outcomes or what our standards are that we have to be teaching and that's our intrinsic load. So we can't really change that. The only way that you can change that really is to break it down into multiple steps, which can be useful for sure, to help reduce the load. If you can teach one step and then the next step with something that's quite difficult, a second type of load is called extraneous. Now this is the way the content is presented. And this is definitely something that we can manage as teachers about how we present the content for our students. And so I wanna talk a little bit more about that in terms of what we can do to reduce that load, because our goal really in teaching is to reduce as much extraneous load as we possibly can.
We don't want to be adding any extraneous load beyond what's needed to present the content. And the third type of load is referred to as germane load. Now this is the work of what's called schema construction. So schema just basically how this is the work of storing memory, right? This is the work of creating systems in our mind or structures for storing what we are learning. And so, yeah, the more that we can do this is kind like putting things into long term memory type stuff. So this is, this is the work. What we're being asked to do with the content, I guess, is part of what that's being, what that's doing. So if you're being asked to analyze something, then you're making those connections and stuff. If it's a explained and a cause and effect, you know, that's helping you with your schema, that's, that's how you are constructing that knowledge.
So there are three types of load we have intrinsic, which is content matter extraneous, which is the way the content is presented. And we have germane, which is the work of schema construction. Now, if you are listening to this and you're like, oh, I wish I could take notes. Don't worry. Actually, I'm gonna, I've making this as a video as well on YouTube. And you can grab the slides for this, if you would like just head to teacherspd.net/cognitiveload, and you'll land there on a form that you can use to grab the slides that go with this episode. So as I continue on here, the goal of teaching when it comes to cognitive load is to reduce the extraneous load, right? That how it's presented type load and focused learners to construct schemas, which is the germane load. So we're gonna help our learners by showing them how to construct schemers and also reducing any extraneous load that we possibly can, as we do this, like I was saying before the
Schemers, right? This is all about organizing patterns of information and the relationships between us. It's about how we store knowledge. Because I don't know if you know this, hopefully if you've been listening to the podcast for a while, you will be able to remember that a while ago. I did a episode on how memory is stored and stuff as well. I, I spoke about it. I've spoken about it a few times, but basically a memory is not just a single thing, right? A memory is neurons and it's multiple neurons and their connection. So they're all become connected and that's our memory. And then when we draw from that memory, it's that those neurons firing towards between each other and then off to wherever it needs to go for us to be able to remember it. And so when we're storing information, it's about creating these relationships between pieces of information, normally between what we know and the new information, or sometimes the new information has connections between itself as well for us.
But it's about organizing patterns and information and the relationship between this kind of information. So that's what we're trying to do with this scheme is that construction of learning that construction of memories, I'm gonna go into a bunch of teaching strategies that are going to help reduce the extraneous load and focus on the domain loads. Let's start by reducing the extraneous load. I think this is the, the easier thing for us to do as teachers, for sure. So first and foremost, have a look around your classroom. Is it a messy classroom? Like, is it cluttered? Are there, you know, if your classroom, and this is something that a lot of teachers like, they like to put lots of stuff up on the walls. They think it's like motivational or whatever. But if your whole classroom is covered in stuff that distracts students from what you're trying to teach them or from the learning they're trying to do, it actually is extraneous load.
And so you can reduce the extraneous load by tidying up those walls. I'm not saying you shouldn't celebrate, students' learning, but you shouldn't necessarily do it in the learning space. You could actually celebrate it out on the hallways or something like that, where the students will see it in a more public, or maybe just have one section in your room that celebrates the most recent types of learning that your students have done and all that they've constructed, not all of it and not have everything up everywhere. And I'm not saying you can't have a poster or two that about, you know how to go about problem solving and that kind of stuff. They are helpful for your students when they need them. Okay. And you just direct them to those when they're needed, but you don't need to have all your walls covered in stuff.
You don't need to have your desk in a mess. You know, even as a teacher, if you're trying to get work done, you have a larger extraneous load. If your desk is a mess your PowerPoint, right? If you're presenting PowerPoints or slides or anything to your students, whatever you're presenting, just make sure it's clean. Make sure it hasn't got 10 different colors and three different fonts. Make sure there's not all these little tiny pictures in your slideshow. Just reduce it right down and make it as clean and focused as you can. The next thing that you wanna do is be selective in what you present to the students. You don't wanna have to present lots of information that's not needed. And this is something that I find in a lot of textbooks, right? You read a textbook and you actually find that they could have written this section in less than half the words, if they had to just focus on the stuff that the students actually need to know.
And so that for us is part of our role as a teacher is to help the students by cutting things back from their sides, get rid of the fluff and just focus on the really the main bits of information that the students need to have there in order to grasp the concepts that you're teaching them. So be selective with what you're presenting. And another thing we can do to reduce extraneous load is to draw attention to things that are important. So we can do this by highlighting keywords textbooks, do it by making some words bold, sometimes that are in the text that helps to draw our attention to it. And you can do that at any point in time. You can use sounds to do this as well. Just yeah, you want your students to go, all right, this is important. It could be as simple as you saying, Hey, kids just stop for a sec.
I want you to make sure you're paying attention, focus on this. This is super important for you to understand this concept. So, and then explain that. And just by you saying that it draws their attention to the fact that this is super important. So that's three, just simple things that you can do to reduce the extraneous load now, to help your students focus on the germane load, this whole structuring of patterns and relationships between things here. We're gonna look at how we go forward with construction, right? And I like the images of, you know, a store room or warehouse or something like that. But the first thing that I'm gonna tell you that we can do to help our students is to provide them with a blueprint of their learning. Like when we're gonna construct a house, we're gonna blueprint. We know what the house is gonna look like in the end, we know how tall it's gonna be.
We know how wide it's gonna be. We know what kind of rough colors it might be, but our students would highly benefit from that. And this is kind of like your your great examples of what it's gonna look like when the students are successful. This is where your success criteria come in. You're showing the students, this is what we're going to be able to do. This is what we're gonna create together throughout your learning. This is the skills you're gonna develop to be able to create this type of thing. And that just helps. 'em Know where they're going and to, it helps 'em to know what's important too, as they go through all the learning, cuz as they learn the bit about how to make the steps or whatever they go, right. That fits right here at the front of the house to create the steps. Or maybe as they're putting in a window, they're okay, this is a window in a wall. And we have, we're gonna do this a few times around the house. I know where these kind of go.
Speaker 4 (11:53):
I don't know what these function for and stuff. And you know, we're not teaching 'em how to build a house necessarily, but by giving them the picture of where it's going and where it fits in the big picture then means that when they're doing it, the smaller bits they go, oh, that goes in here. Right? And then when they get to something, that's actually not in the blueprint, right? It's not in that example that you've given them. They can go well, is that actually, is that actually important for this learning that they're doing now, along with this building analogy is the idea of providing scaffolds and scaffolds are super important for the students who are struggling. Cause it helps 'em to know what the next step is, right? And that's what a scaffold is. You're basically just going, you're doing this step, this step, this step, this step, you're breaking something down for them.
Speaker 4 (12:35):
And so a scaffold is helpful because it's showing that kind of process of learning. You're going from one to the other, to the other and it connects and you're showing how it builds together to create the schema that they need. And so scaffold's super useful for the lower end students for the students who seem to be doing well with this content that you are teaching, which is always different students, depending on the content that's happening or the skill set that's being looked at. I want you to think, yeah, for those kind of students, they don't need as much scaffolding in terms of the day to day activities, but they still need the larger scaffold in terms of how the, they things fit into the bigger picture. And so you, you're looking at shifting away cuz you, this is our goal. We actually wanna move kids away from requiring scaffolds.
Speaker 4 (13:23):
So they actually can look at things and kind of create their own scaffolds about what they need to do and where things are going. Another great thing to do as teachers, as we are presenting new content or as we are helping the students learn new content is to chunk information that is connected. If you come across a section in your syllabus that connects to a piece that was taught beforehand or that connects to a piece going forward, maybe it does both bring all of it together and present it to the students as a whole, right, as this whole piece, to help them to understand that now for my subject area, I'd often use energy systems as my example here, because in my specialty in PDH, right, energy systems is often taught there's there's anaerobic, which is ATP for Sorein and it's a lactic acid system.
Speaker 4 (14:12):
And then there's the aerobic system that can be used. And there's so there's three systems there. And then they have to be taught all the different types of training. And then they get taught the physiological adaptations and they get taught the principles of training and we're meant to help them to connect that to improvements in performance. And so I can actually chunk this differently to the way that my syllabus chunks it by connecting aerobic training or aerobic energy systems with the aerobic training, with the aerobic application of the principles of training with the aerobic, physiological adaptations that happen and then to the aerobic improvements in performance that happen. And that is actually a better cluster
Stuff for learning because that's the connections that actually happen in the body. They're the connections in real life. And that's what the students actually get asked to do in exams and stuff as well is to connect those types of things. And then they do the same for anaerobic and other types of training and linking it into their energy systems or into a skill or something to chunking that information together because it relates to each other, makes it easier for our students to create this schema because there's already this relationship that's been created for them. And so now they have this chunk of information that has lots of relationships that they then can connect to other ideas and content that's in their brain already to help them to store it long term, to use it more easily in their working memory. Another thing that we can do is use pneumonics.
Now pneumonics technically refers to anything that that helps you to learn or to memorize things, but I'm particularly thinking of things like, you know, seal. So statement expand, apply and link for the basic scaffolding of a structure that kind of a pneumonic. And by using those, we are again creating a scheme, right? A schema schema for our students to be able to learn content more easily and connect it into their memory for longer term storage. Next let's think about collaborative tasks. Now, collaborative tasks are tasks where you're getting, you know, two to four kids working together. You could do it with more than that. Likely you could do a Socratic circle, which might be able to use more students than that. But the goal of collaborative tasks is to help all students to develop a deeper understanding of the content that's being that's there. And as we develop our collaborative tasks, collaborative tasks, by using collaboration, you can reduce the cognitive load for our students because their cognitive load.
So let's say your brand new to the content. It actually means you can generally only manage about four items at a time. Whereas if you're an expert, you can do eight items at a time for that topic. So if our students are new to it and you wanna ask them to do something that only requires four items, if you then make that a group task kids will get bored and not have a role in the task because it doesn't actually require all of them. Whereas if you give them something that requires all eight items, then that suddenly, you know, two or three students can be involved then as they are recalling those four, those eight items and manipulating them around and using them in the way that you want them to. So it's important for our collaborative tasks to demand collaboration in terms of their load on the students and to make sure we're not giving them tasks that are boring.
Okay. Cuz if it's, if it's something that one kid could do, then one kid's gonna do it. And the other kids are gonna just sit around doing nothing. So we need to make sure the task is difficult enough and requires this collaboration. And then we need to see that the collaboration is providing this scaffold to help our students with that learning. And I think collaborative tasks are fantastic when used super well. And I've, there's lots of resources around me how to do collaborative tasks. Well, I, I can do a whole episode on it. Now, the most important thing for us to know as teachers too is when it comes to learning the number one thing that impacts your learning is what you know already is, right? So your prior knowledge. And so if you have prior knowledge, our students have prior knowledge. It's important for us to know what that prior knowledge is.
And then for us to connect the new information to it, because that's how we build these schemas and patterns. If we've got new content, we've gotta find something that the students already know that they can connect to, to help them to remember it, to store it into their longer term memory. And it's not about, you know, constantly being exposed to something, yes, that helps with developing the pathways for recall, but they will store things well the first time, if they learn how to make these connections really clearly. And it's the same. If you learn, if you go to a party and you gotta learn people's names, if there's someone's name connects with something for you, you're gonna remember that person's name. If they have the same name as your brother, you'll remember their name, because you'll look at them and go, you'll got the same name as my brother.
And you don't forget your brother's name because you grew up with them, right. And that happens all the time with all of our learning. And so you just go, well, I need to find the things that connect that my students already know and the better the students already know that, right? If it's a strong idea that they already know that they can recall all the time, if they can connect it to that, it's gonna be even better for them, for their recall and stuff. So there's some ways to reduce that germane load and help our students to construct the schema, which is that developing of knowledge. So let's talk about units of work. Very briefly. You can identify prior knowledge at the beginning of your units of work. I think that's super important for the, how you then build things on, make sure you're chunking content around like minded topics or things that relate to each other, create that chunk.
It will help it to be alert easier to then be drawn out and manipulated more easily with our working memory and stuff too. So actually finding those chunks of information in our syllabus to then use in our units of work, in terms of how we present stuff, presenting it together is heaps, heaps useful for our students. Part number three is to use the whole part, whole method. So that's kind of giving the, the big picture and then breaking it down into smaller chunks and then putting it back together again. And that whole part whole is really, really useful for your students to actually be grasping, okay, this is where it's all gonna go together. And then as they learn it, they can construct things as they go in their mind because they know what it's meant to look like. Number four is to start using pneumonics as much as you can throughout your learning to help your students remember things just by really it's about chunking, right? Neumonic is kind of like
Chunking. And then number five is to tidy everything up to reduce that extraneous load re you know, get rid of any cluttery stuff that's in your classroom, reduce the clutter in your presentations. And even in the way you talk and the way you present things, remove the fluff, tidy it up, make it more focused on the things that really matter for your students and highlight those things that are super important. Well, I hope you got a lot out of today in coming and listening to me here, make sure if you want those slides to head over to teacherspd.net/cognitiveload, and It'll, It'll show you how to get your slides there that I use in this. I've done a video for this on YouTube, and also I'm recording it for the podcast. If you haven't got a copy of my book yet, make sure you do that as well.
Head to teacherspd.net/freeWLTM that will land you on a page with lots of information about the book so that you can get a copy for free and just cover posts and handling. And I'll get that posted out to you guys. Thank you so much. I look forward to chatting to you again next week, as we continue to just look into what it means to be an effective teacher in our classrooms, improving what we're doing, reducing your workload as well is my goal. So come and join me again next week. Make sure you hit the subscribe button, but first go get yourself a free book, paper post, or grab the slides for this. If you wanted to, if you wished you were taking notes, you want under, you can refer back to go to teacherspd.net/cognitiveload.