Learning: about learning

And I thought I knew everything that was worth knowing ;)

I was doing a bit of reading the other day and came across the following tidbit that I thought was really interesting - it's all about how they (the mysterious they) believe our brain works in terms of learning and memory.

Two memory systems, working memory and long-term memory, shape human learning. Working memory is the center of all conscious thinking, including deliberate learning. However it is limited in memory capacity. The well-known limit of seven plus or minus two chunks of information first articulated by Miller (1956) applies to working memory.

In contrast, long-term memory is a permanent, large capacity repository of information consisting of organised structures called schemata. However, it has no processing capabilities. There is an interaction between working memory and long-term memory in that, the more related knowledge that is stored in long-term memory, the larger chunks working memory can absorb.

Therefore, novice learners with little related knowledge in long-term memory are much more susceptible to cognitive overload than are more experienced learners. This is why prior knowledge of the learner is an important individual difference characteristic that must be considered with designing instruction

So in essence, the more you know about something already, the easier it is to digest new information about it. (Maybe this is just common sense but it's exciting to me - I'd normally say I need to go out and get a life at this point but I'm pretty durned happy with the one I have at the moment)

(find out more about this in:

Colvin, Clark, R. & Mayer, R. E. (2007). Using rich media wisely. In R. A. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.). Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology (pp. 311-322). Upper Saddle Creek, NJ: Pearson Education.)