Unfortunately it’s very difficult to calculate cognitive load measurements in a real-world, real-time educational setting. So the best strategy overall may be to be aware of cognitive principles and be willing to adjust the format of instruction as needed. While we can’t see a student’s cognitive load, we can measure their progress. Edtech tools provide progress monitoring which can be scaled to a classroom of students simultaneously, providing a high degree of evaluation and flexibility while reducing teacher stress. The amount of information a student can acquire at any given time is limited, and should not be overloaded. If cognitive load is carefully managed, a student’s learning is optimized. Remember, however, that every student’s memory capacity and schema acquisition is different. A student’s cognitive processing capacity is affected by factors such as attention span and prior knowledge.
Similarly, choosing instructional strategies needs to factor whether learners are experts or novices. Considerable debate continues in the field of human memory and cognitive load to determine how best to teach complex subjects to maximize the transfer of learning. Some researchers believe that inducing germane load with high variability and limited guidance and feedback is the best way to achieve a high performance in the transfer of learning. Paradoxically these same strategies often hinder the teaching of simple tasks to novices.
Using granular diagnostic assessments to identify student strengths and weaknesses in detail helps to develop a zone of proximal development for each student, and thus reduce extraneous load. This is most efficiently done using edtech software, such as Let’s Go Learn’s DORA or ADAM assessments, because an entire classroom of students can be assessed simultaneously in great detail. Adaptive supplemental curriculum software also helps reduce cognitive load by skipping information that students have already mastered.
Several interesting instructional strategies which may not be suitable for an entire classroom, but which may be helpful for specific groups of students, include the role of background music, using simultaneous forms of information (e.g. visual and audio), utilizing movement, or changing problem-solving strategies.