What can cognitive science tell us about how to design learning experiences?

Research in cognitive science and psychology is generating new insights into how we learn.

Below, educational consultant and writer David Didau explores some key theories about learning – as well as debunking some widely-held beliefs along the way.

Sources and references

How we learn: A quick guide to how the brain stores and retrieves information

Why is it that we often can’t recall something we once knew well?

Why does making a task harder, not easier, lead to more durable learning?

And is going over and over the same material actually not an effective way to revise?

In this short film, David Didau describes the relationship between working memory and long-term memory, explaining what determines – and improves - our ability to recall a piece of information.

Learning styles, multitasking – and other modern misconceptions about learning

We learn more effectively if we receive learning in our preferred ‘learning style’ – right?

A recent survey showed that 93% of teachers agreed with this statement, but in fact study after study has shown it to be wrong.

David Didau explores six misconceptions about learning that stand in the way of creating effective learning experiences.

How to make effective learning resources

The cognitive load of a learning resource is the balance between task demand (how hard it is and how long it takes) and available resources (students' prior knowledge and the resources they have to hand).

If the cognitive load is too high, students become overwhelmed and disengaged.

If it's too low, they won't be challenged.

Design features can either enhance a learning resource or add unnecessary cognitive load.

David Didau explains how to get the balance right.

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