Can prior knowledge increase task complexity?

British Journal of Educational Psychology

Congratulations to Crowther Centre’s Ollie Lovell for his recently published article ‘Can prior knowledge increase task complexity? – Cases in which higher prior knowledge leads to higher intrinsic cognitive load’.

Cognitive Load Theory provides recommendations for how teachers can structure their instruction whilst taking into account the fact that students can only consider a limited number of things at any one time (due to limited working memory). Within the research, the difficulty of a task (the intrinsic cognitive load) is usually measured by student self-report on questions like, ‘This task was very complex’ or ‘This task contained a lot of things that I needed to think about.’ and usually students with more experience in an area will give lower task difficulty ratings than less experienced students.

Ollie’s most recent paper demonstrated that this isn’t always the case. Sometimes students with higher levels of experience can rate a given task as more complex than more novice learners, and this can happen particularly when the question is trickier than it looks at first glance. This represents a new idea in the field of Cognitive Load Theory, and significantly advances the field.

Read more on the Crowther Centre website