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The use of illustrations when learning to read: a cognitive load theory approach.

Torcasio, Susannah Marie, Education, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW

2009

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  • Title:
    The use of illustrations when learning to read: a cognitive load theory approach.
  • Author/Creator/Curator: Torcasio, Susannah Marie, Education, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW
  • Subjects: Cognitive load theory. Reading instruction.
  • Resource type: Thesis
  • Type of thesis: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2009
  • Supervisor: Sweller, John, Education, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW
  • Language: English
  • Print availability: T/2009/144 (Please speak to a staff member at the Library Help Zone)
  • Permissions: This work can be used in accordance with the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.
    Please see additional information at https://www.library.unsw.edu.au/copyright/unsworks.html

  • Description: When students are learning to read, the materials supplied typically will include extensive illustrations. The implicit assumption is that the inclusion of such illustrations will assist students in learning to read. Cognitive load theory suggests that this way of formatting learning materials may not be maximally effective as the inclusion of illustrations with written text constitutes redundant information that may interfere with learning. If working memory resources are devoted to the illustrations rather than the text, as is likely with young children, those resources will be unavailable to decipher the text. The elimination of redundant illustrations may thus enhance learning to read. Three experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of including illustrations in beginning reading materials. Experiment 1 compared reading materials consisting solely of simple prose passages with materials consisting of the same passages plus informative illustrations depicting the content of each passage. Reading proficiency improved more under the no illustrations condition. Experiment 2 compared the informative illustrations with uninformative illustrations. Reading proficiency improved more using uninformative illustrations. Experiment 3 compared uninformative illustrations with no illustrations and found no significant differences between these conditions. These results were interpreted within a cognitive load theory framework. It was concluded that informative illustrations are redundant and so impose an extraneous working memory load that interferes with learning to read.

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