ICER 2014 Preview: Briana Morrison and an instrument for measuring cognitive load

August 8, 2014 at 7:50 am 1 comment

The International Computing Education Research (ICER) conference 2014 is August 11-13 in Glasgow (see program here).  My involvement starts Saturday August 9 when we have the welcome dinner for the doctoral consortium, which will be run all day on Sunday August 10 (Sally Fincher and I are chairing).  The main conference presentations continue through noon on Wednesday August 13. The rest of August 13 and into Thursday August 14 will be a new kind  of ICER session: Critical Research Review for work-in-progress.  I’m presenting on some new work that I’m getting feedback on related to constructionism for adults. I’ll blog about that later.

Briana Morrison is presenting her paper on developing an instrument to measure cognitive load (early version of paper available here), with co-authors Brian Dorn (my former student, now a chaired assistant professor at U. Nebraska-Omaha) and me.  Briana’s research is looking at the impacts of modality on program understanding for students.  Does audio vs. video vs. both have an impact on student understanding?  She’s controlling for time in all her presentations, and plans to measure performance…and cognitive load.  Is it harder for students to understand audio descriptions of program code, or to try to read text descriptions while trying to read text programs?

There wasn’t a validated instrument for her to use to measure the components of cognitive load — so she created one.  She took an existing instrument, and adapted it to computer science.  She and Brian did the hard work of crunching all the correlations and load factors to make sure that the instrument is still valid after her adaptation.  It’s an important contribution in terms of giving computing education researchers another validated tool for measuring something important about learning.

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