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It's been stated about Sweller’s cognitive load theory that a learner's extraneous, germane, and intrinsic cognitive loads are often hard to objectively measure. However, studies have recently indicated that there are physiological signs of a learner’s cognitive load (including pupil diameter and blink rate; see Krejtz et al., 2018).

In a study conducted with medical professionals, researchers investigated whether these physiological measurements of cognitive load, along with self-reported measurements, were related to users’ performance in a training simulation. Their findings indicated that learners’ performance in the training simulation was predicted by users’ previous knowledge and their cognitive load during the simulation.

So, why is this significant? Researchers explain that “high cognitive load during simulation training is associated with impaired learning and incomplete skill transfer to clinical practice. Measuring cognitive load can thus help to identify individuals whose skills are not fully consolidated” (Aldekhyl, Cavalcanti, & Naismith, 2018, p. 23).

Key Takeaway

Measuring learners’ cognitive load during simulation training can give us important indicators about how successfully they’ll be able to transfer that training to the real world. (Now all you have to do is get your hands on an eye-tracking device.)

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Aldekhyl, S., Cavalcanti, R.B. & Naismith, L.M. (2018). Cognitive load predicts point-of-care ultrasound simulator performance. Perspectives on Medical Education, 7, 23–32.

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