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Effects of the Physical Environment on Cognitive Load and Learning: Towards a New Model of Cognitive Load

Abstract

Although the theoretical framework of cognitive load theory has acknowledged a role for the learning environment, the specific characteristics of the physical learning environment that could affect cognitive load have never been considered, neither theoretically nor empirically. In this article, we argue that the physical learning environment, and more specifically its effects on cognitive load, can be regarded as a determinant of the effectiveness of instruction. We present an updated version of the cognitive load model of Paas and Van Merriënboer (Educational Psychology Review, 6:351–371, 1994a), in which the physical learning environment is considered a distinct causal factor that can interact with learner characteristics, learning-task characteristics, or a combination of both. Previous research into effects of the physical learning environment on cognitive performance that could inspire new cognitive load research is discussed, and a future research agenda is sketched.

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Choi, HH., van Merriënboer, J.J.G. & Paas, F. Effects of the Physical Environment on Cognitive Load and Learning: Towards a New Model of Cognitive Load. Educ Psychol Rev 26, 225–244 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-014-9262-6

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Keywords

  • Cognitive load theory
  • Physical learning environment
  • Instructional design