On Cognitive Load Theory and Dual Coding Theory

by Guillermo Bautista Jr.

Among the readings in Module 5, there are two things that I have learned that I am really interested: Cognitive Load Theory and Dual Coding Theory. In this post, I am going to explain some possible applications of these theories in the classroom as well as education in general based on my experience as a teacher.

Cognitive Load Theory states that the brain has a limited number of stimuli that can be processed at a time. Psychologists now agree that the there are only 3-7 stimuli that can be processed at a time depending on maturity and experience. This means that the teacher has to be mindful of how to design instructions and to make sure that the tasks do not require too much cognitive demand that may hinder learning. Teachers should also take note of the cognitive abilities of students and the environment. Further, from a broader perspective, it is also imperative to examine the curriculum. In my study during a teacher training in Japan, I have personally compared the curricula of Japan and the Philippines and found out that our curriculum has too many topics compared to that of Japan’s.

Dual Coding Theory, on the other hand, states that the brain represents and processes information verbally and visually. These representations are processed separately, but connections are made in order to store and retrieve information. One of the implications of this theory for teaching is the emphasis on visual aids as early as possible as well as making connections between visual aids and verbal explanations whenever possible. For instance, in mathematics, it is recommended to use multiple representations in almost every concept. For example, relationships between two variables, particularly functions can be represented numerically, algebraically, and geometrically.


Numerical representations involve tables or ordered pairs, algebraic representations involve equations, and geometric representations involve graphs. The task above is an example that highlights these connections: it asks students to match the graphs, equations, tables, and rules.

The two theories above are very important for teachers and educators to know. Teachers should reflect on how to use these theories to improve teaching.

References

Kirschner, P. A. (2002). Cognitive load theory: Implications of cognitive load theory on the design of learning.

Paivio, A. (2006, September). Dual coding theory and education. In Draft paper for the conference on “Pathways to Literacy Achievement for High Poverty Children,” The University of Michigan School of Education.

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