Cognitive load theory and aging: Effects of worked examples on training efficiency
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Cognitive load theory (CLT) is aimed at developing training material that efficiently makes use of the available cognitive processing capacity and stimulates the learner's ability to use acquired knowledge and skills in new situations. It is claimed that CLT-based training formats meet the cognitive abilities of elderly learners particularly well. That is, cognitive aging brings about several declines of working memory, which impede the acquisition of complex cognitive skills. By making an optimal use of the ‘remaining’ cognitive resources, learning can be enhanced. For that purpose, CLT provides a promising range of training formats that have proven their effectiveness relative to conventional formats in young adults. This article presents an experimental study (N=54) aimed at the efficiency of worked examples as a substitute for conventional practice problems in training both elderly and young adults. According to CLT, studying worked examples is a more efficient means of training complex skills than solving conventional problems. As predicted, the results show that — with respect to the elderly — the efficiency of studying worked examples is higher than the efficiency of solving conventional problems in that less training time and cognitive load leads to a comparable level of performance.