Professor Dan Robinson

robinson_001Professor Dan Robinson (website)
School of education – Colorado State University

Dan Robinson is Director and Professor of the School of Education at Colorado State University. He received his Ph.D. in both learning/cognition and statistics/research from the University of Nebraska. He has taught at Mississippi State University, the University of South Dakota, the University of Louisville, and the University of Texas. Dr. Robinson has served as an editorial board member of nine journals and as the editor of Educational Psychology Review since 2006. He has published over 100 articles, books, and book chapters. He is a Fulbright Scholar. His research interests include educational technology innovations that may facilitate learning.

Making Tasks Desirably Difficult vs. Reducing Extraneous Cognitive Load

An important tenet of Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) is designing instruction to remove extraneous cognitive load that is unnecessary for learning to occur. For example, splitting attention is known to decrease learning due to increased extraneous load. However, there may be times where increasing extraneous load actually improves long-term learning. The strategy of “desirable difficulties” (DD) has studied by cognitive psychologists for some time. This involves designing instruction to create difficulties for learners that result in increased learning. For example, changing the typeface of text so that it is more difficult to read (disfluency) may result in increased comprehension. Other examples include introducing contextual interference during study, distributed study sessions, and using tests as learning events rather than simple presentation of information. These examples may even lead to poorer performance in immediate testing situations but better performance for long-term learning. The purpose of this talk is to introduce the notion of desirable difficulties to the CLT community. Because the two concepts are similar, yet opposite in terms of goals – CLT attempts to remove barriers to learning whereas DD attempts to introduce barriers, we should consider this potential conflict and design experiments that may allow us to disentangle the two concepts.