Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Cognitive Load Theory

Here is the COGAT in a nutshell. It is the direct application of Cognitive Load Theory under the guise that children with a learned aptitude for academic material generated the ability to handle cognitive load.

Start with this quote I found in this article on the website theemotionallearner.com. It's a great website if you're in to that sort of thing. The quote is in a brief summary of Cognitive Load Theory (CLT). I wish I spent more time researching CLT, but researchers are really frustrating. More on that later.

Complex novel elements will overload working memory, so the complexity of a task needs to be pitched at the right level. As new information is incorporated into [long term memory] and new cognitive schemas arise, it leads to less load on cognitive resources and the level of complexity can increase.

The way cognitive skills tests measure cognitive skills, aka aptitude for academic work of all kinds, is to present never before seen novel tasks which are complicated. Complexity is defined by multiple relationships at once. The "right level" is the level way beyond the one your child can achieve with success in a reasonable amount of time. Long term memory is not in the picture in one test sitting, so it's all working memory on the COGAT.

Minor Implications

The classic way to beat the COGAT is to practice COGAT type questions, taking the 'novel' out of the equation. The classical approach is good for about a score of 85% to 90%.

The superior approach is to feed your child a steady stream of overly complicated working memory taxing exercises - regardless of the similarity to an actual COGAT question. This approach is good for 90% after just 6 weeks. Imagine what you could do with 12 weeks.

Wondering whether or not an activity or toy or game will help prepare your child for academic success? How complicated is it, how many things are happening at once, and how many skills does your child have to develop in order to finish the task? In general, the longer it takes, the closer the task is to the desirable mix of attributes. Bonus points for an activity that is fun enough to keep your child's interest while the skills are developed.

For example, is piano more desirable than the clarinet? Certainly at age 4, because the clarinet is way beyond the piano. The piano has 2 hands and two staffs. The clarinet is 2 hands, the mouth, cheeks, tongue, the tips of 10 fingers stretched in a way to create squeaks; none of these body parts are developed enough at age 4. Feel free to complain below about my bold assertion. Both of these rank below reading, which has at least 62 things going on at once. That is why reading comp is such good preparation, and why math in word problem format is 10 times as powerful as math in equation form. Is gymnastics better than soccer? It is if it's more interesting to your child. Like the clarinet, there are dozens of activities that are wonderful in later ages that parents push their children into at age 3 or 4.

The major implication

If you provide your child a steady stream of qualified activities, their working memory becomes a powerful weapon, and they will develop a host of sub-skills to deal with complicated tasks.

I accidentally discovered that the transition from working memory to long term memory starts at about 3 (mostly painful) weeks and eventually the child grows the capacity to instantly store items in long term memory that should meander close to the event horizon of their working memory. Short term memory is a brief sorting area for things that are sucked into working memory and things that are worth discarding, like the term 'trapezoid' which never seems to make it.

At some point, you reach the limit of the skill set of the child - not in their actual skill set, but in the material that is suitable to throw at the child. How many gladiators does the coliseum lion need to eat before he's bored? Not many.

In my ongoing series of diabolical experiments, none were as effective as those performed at the beginning of reading and math, where CAT took 3 weeks, as did the first page of Every Day Math . Both were Herculean tasks of brain growth.

Then I discovered fields, like trigonometry, chemistry, and philosophy. In throwing these at the child at an inappropriate age, and once they get beyond the phase of the minor implications of CLT, there is no such thing as an inappropriate age, I observed a whole new dynamic in cognitive skill develpment.

When you throw an entire field at your child in a short period of time (like one sitting), the process of understanding material and transitioning it to long term memory is too much. Instead of taking bits and pieces, which at first glance is what you think you might observe, the child lays the foundation for the next pass. I call this effect 'bucketing'. The child creates brain buckets for the material. It looks like they are not learning, but when they eventually see this material in class, it's all 'Ah ha!' instead of 'What?'.

For this reason, I'm transitioning from 'how to cheat your way into a gifted program' on this website to 'how to cheat your way through high school AP courses' on the next website.

A note on research

If you read the article linked above, you will see 'objective measures of cognitive load are difficult to obtain'. This makes me wonder, yet again, how much time these researchers spend with actual children. You just have to look. It usually occurs at the 15 minute mark with newby's and the 25 minute mark with advanced children. They heave a heavy sigh after reading a question for the 13th time, missing words like 'three' that are in plain sight. Researchers need to look for 'cognitive exhaustion' and measure performance up to that point, and they will have their proxy for cognitive load.