Implementation and assessment of Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) based questions in an electronic homework and testing system
To a first approximation, human memory is divided into two parts, short-term and long-term. Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) attempts to minimize the short-term memory load while maximizing the memory available for transferring knowledge from short-term to long-term memory. According to CLT there are three types of load, intrinsic, extraneous, and germane. Our implementation of CLT components into our electronic homework system, JExam, attempts to minimize intrinsic and extraneous load by breaking down multistep problems into smaller, individual steps for the students. Using the static fading approach over several questions, students weave all the steps together to solve the entire problem. Using Item Response Theory (IRT) abilities, we compared the performance of students utilizing the CLT static fading approach to that of students without the CLT components. On seven out of eight topics, students exposed to CLT component homework questions scored higher on subsequent test questions related to that topic than those not exposed to CLT. In four out of the eight cases, students exposed to CLT based homework problems improved their chances of correctly answering related test questions by greater than 10%. Though there exists a large time commitment in producing CLT based homework problems, this study suggests that the reward, in terms of student performance, is well worth the investment.
- This article is part of the themed collection: The Application of Technology to Enhance Chemistry Education