Cognitive load and instructionally supported learning with provided and learner-generated visualizations

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This study investigated, whether learning from science texts can be enhanced by providing learners with different forms of visualizations (pictures) in addition to text. One-hundred-two 9th and 10th graders read a computer-based text on chemical processes of washing and answered questions on cognitive load (mental effort, perceived difficulty) and comprehension (retention, transfer, drawing). Instruction varied according to a 2 × 2-factorial design with 'learner-generated pictures' (yes, no) and 'provided pictures' (yes, no) as factors. Results indicate positive main effects of provided pictures on all three comprehension measures and negative main effects on both cognitive load measures. Additional analyses revealed a mediation effect of perceived difficulty on retention and transfer, that is learning with provided pictures decreased cognitive load and enhanced comprehension. Furthermore, results show a positive main effect of learner-generated pictures on drawing and mental effort, but no mediation effect. Taken together, computer-based learning with provided pictures enhances comprehension as it seems to promote active processing while reducing extraneous cognitive processing. Learners, generating pictures, however, seem to have less cognitive resources available for essential and generative processing, resulting in reduced comprehension. These results are in line with cognitive load theory, cognitive theories of multimedia learning, and generative theories of learning.

Original languageEnglish
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)89-93
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 01.2011
Externally publishedYes

    Research areas

  • Cognitive load, Generative processes, Multimedia learning, Reading comprehension
  • Psychology