How Learning Style Affects The Learner Understanding And Educational Activities Improve Retention of Your Complex Learning Material

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Improve Retention of Your Complex Learning Material

Have you ever noticed that once you reach a point in learning a new concept that it gradually becomes easier? It might be “AH-HA!” time, or gradually understand more than you did in the past. However, when you get a basic understanding of the information, learning more will be easier. Conversely, when you are first exposed to information, it is like a wall of new ideas that you have to climb without a ladder.

When you present complex ideas and new content to your audience, they face the same challenge. They live in unknown territory and cannot distinguish between relationships or the effects of parts of the material. They don’t know what they don’t know yet, and how to get that new information. In addition, they are only able to hold a small amount of information in their mind at a time that creates a relationship between ideas. Seminal to these ideas, George Miller presented the psychological idea that people can only store five to seven separate concepts in their short-term memory at a time, when. John Sweller expanded upon the idea of ​​with the details of intellectual load and schema of related information (Sweller, 1988) which shows that the preparation of the presented content has a significant impact on the students’ acquisition of the material. In addition, Sweller said that problem-solving objectives may not be the best way to start learning new material, because the learner will focus on solving problems rather than content that it represents.

As producers of online learning materials, we must take these ideas to heart, because the importance of our planning and design should create the best results for the deliver complex ideas in smaller, more accessible packages. This is not as easy to use as it sounds, and is well explained in many articles on the subject.

To illustrate some of Sweller’s key points (Sweller, 1999), there are four recommendations regarding knowledge loading and the design of instructional materials:

When presenting problems as learning tools, set them up so that they stress the learning of the content of the process, and not just the end result.

Let’s say you are trying to teach students how to convert from feet to meters. You have to think about the calculations, and not the end. In this way, you focus their attention on the real goal, not the perceived goal.

Put supporting points together so that the learner doesn’t have to split their thoughts between different parts of the document.

If you are displaying a picture of a car engine to show the location of the engine parts, label and describe the parts in the picture, rather than creating separate legends that people learn about. must be sent. If possible, separate the impact of the image and support text, sound, animation or interaction to present something related. Break down complex processes and concepts into smaller and more accessible parts.

Eliminate surprises by defining the meaning of ambiguous terms.

Have you ever sat through a presentation where the speaker just read what was being said on the screen? If you have, then you understand the need not to repeat. Repetition is an important part of learning, but regular content tends to hinder rather than encourage if they don’t add additional information or allow for interpretation.



Increase working memory by supporting more than one understanding in a non-repetitive manner.


The fact is, for the content of online or electronic education, we are still limited to sight and sound for the presentation of information and understanding, but we can use this information in a creative way. For example, a video of a physical exercise can provide visual and auditory information that the learner can interpret because of the experience and kinesthetic. The drawings of work with an electronic device can provide important information when the animated focus on their maintenance or placement in a large machine.

Following these concepts can help students in creating a network or web or relationship between the knowledge area that Sweller refers to as a schema (Sweller, 1999). schema or scheme is an internal representation of the world or an area of ​​knowledge that is based on the new design of understanding in the curriculum. A created schema allows an expert in an area to see what new information is useful and should be translated into knowledge, and what information is extraneous. This is a psychological explanation of how to gain knowledge in an area is a fast process, depending on the experience and social knowledge already was created by the learner.

To break this down to work for you, the designer of educational content:

1. Take complex information and break it down into small lessons.

2. Use different types of media, such as text and images together to create a relationship between related information.

3. Combine the types of information closely to reduce the amount of information that the learner has to keep in his head at once.

4. Structure your content so that each section builds on the previous section, to help the learner develop ideas faster.

Miller, GA, The magic number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our information processing capacity. Psychological Review, 6381–97 (1956).

Sweller, J., Cognitive load during problem solving: Implications for learning, Cognitive Science, 12, 257-285 (1988).

Sweller, J., Instructional Design in Technical Areas, (Camberwell, Victoria, Australia: Australian Council for Educational Research (1999).

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