Diana Bauducco of Oxford International Education Group presented on 'Avoiding an overload: (Re)discovering the Cognitive Load Theory in ELT' at the 6th annual Future of English Language Teaching Conference (FOELT) in June 2021.
The 2020 Covid pandemic threw us all into uncharted waters and placed heavy demands on both teachers and students. Face-to-face instruction had to be swiftly replaced by remote emergency teaching forcing us to understand new tools, rethink the way we communicate, deal with unexpected distractions, and adapt to a new way of receiving and processing information in a foreign language. These challenges taxed students’ mental resources heavily and resulted in an almost permanent mental fatigue.
The Cognitive Load Theory (CLT), initially developed by Sweller in 1988 to understand cognitive processes and improve learning outcomes, can offer us a comprehensive insight into this phenomena: the lack of concentration and fatigue might be direct consequences of a constant cognitive overload. As flexible and resilient as it, the human brain can only cope with so much newness at any given time. Although it has become more relevant in recent times, this cognitive overload is not a problem exclusive to a pandemic world or live online lessons; it can take place anywhere affecting the way we process information and ultimately, the way we learn.
For teachers, CLT is an essential tool to understand the architecture of students’ cognitive systems, how the working memory works and how to properly stimulate it. Wise decisions on the ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘how much’, and ‘for how long' can make learning more effective by increasing and improving long-term retention of information.
This session will examine the Cognitive Load Theory framework and how its key principles can be applied to ELT. It will identify simple, brain-friendly strategies, for both online and face-to-face lessons, to properly adjust the cognitive load we place on our students in a way that facilitates and maximizes learning.