Cognitive Overload, Understanding Learning Style

I was really intrigued by the description and discussion of cognitive load in the readings for Cognitivism. I can easily see how this impacted my learning all the way through school, including recent graduate school courses; for example, in middle and high school math classes and in my post-secondary experiences with learning anatomy & physiology, I absolutely suffered from a too-heavy cognitive load, causing me to shut down and give up very easily, while my too-light cognitive load in elementary school left me bored and restless. I was well aware that both problems frustrated me, my parents, and my teachers a great deal. I think I didn’t do a very good job of seeking support in the former situation or advocating for myself in the latter. It’s tough because I think this is a very important issue to consider when designing courses, as either scenario could easily demotivate a student, but I can also see myriad ways by which it would be difficult to satisfy all students in a given course. For myself, I’m grateful that at least most of the learning opportunities in my workplace do a fairly good job of breaking trainings down by skill level so that no one has to waste time re-learning information they already feel very comfortable with (or drowning in new information).

As an aside, I would be interested to learn more about personality/learning tests such as Strong Interest Inventory and how accurate they really are. I was surprised by some of my results, although most of them did make sense when I thought more about them. Since then I have wondered how much influence they have on people’s career decision-making (although there likely is not data available for that kind of question, but it would be interesting to see what happened if someone made a career change based primarily on those results). I’d be particularly interested in how this breaks down along gender lines, which is one of the factors SII uses to interpret the results. Certainly gender can heavily influence one’s job satisfaction—see: women in STEM careers and academia, or men in care-taking professions—but then, how do we change those trends for the better if we don’t encourage diversity in the workplace? And what about trans, genderqueer, and gay people? How do socioeconomic, cultural, and racial factors influence the outcome of these tests, and is there a way to address thos factors? In many ways it’s like the SAT, focused in on a very specific group of people to the exclusion of many. Of course, perhaps most people, whether in the target group or not, don’t give a fig about these types of tests in the first place!

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