Flipping the assessment of cognitive load: why and how
Mason, R, Simon, Cooper, G & Wilks, B 2016, 'Flipping the assessment of cognitive load: why and how ', paper presented to the Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, Melbourne, Victoria, 8-12 September, ACM, New York, USA. ISBN: 9781450344494
Cognitive load theory is typically used to evaluate and improve learning materials, with the goal of optimising students’ opportunity to acquire new knowledge and understanding. The cognitive load on a student is typically assessed either objectively, by taking physiological measurements while the student is learning, or subjectively, by asking the student to complete an appropriate questionnaire after the learning experience. However, there are circumstances in which a decision on learning materials must be made before those materials are developed and deployed, whereupon it is not helpful to measure the students during learning or to survey them after learning. Such circumstances necessitate a completely different approach, in which the assessment of the likely imposition of cognitive load is made by the instructors and informs the development of the learning materials. This paper explores such a situation: the choice of a programming language and integrated development environment for an introductory programming course. The paper explains the impracticality of addressing this choice by way of the usual measures of cognitive load. It then presents the approach that was used, flipping the assessment of expected cognitive load from the students to the instructors. The paper explains how this was done, presents the findings, and concludes by suggesting possibilities for future work in the area.