Monday, August 27, 2012

Schemas and Adult Learning

Recently I had was telling some of my Facebook friends about my plans for school. Christine Pence, whom I met at a conference a few years ago, asked me this:
Clare Shappee Dygert Christine -- I'm hoping my thesis will be on using ASL as a schema to reduce cognitive load in asynchronous e-learning. Whatcha think?
Christine Pence Hmm..could you expand a little on this? Are you thinking about the approaches to learning ASL as in your blog article? Or, are you thinking about generalizing the design of asynchronous learning content? Do you have a specific academic content environment in mind?

Once I got over the thrill that someone A) read my blog and B)actually thought about it and remembered I had written, I thought about Christine's question.

Schemas (or schemata), as they are discussed in the Memory and Mind chapter, by John P Clapper ("Category Learning as Schema Induction") that I mention in my ASL Hand Shapes and Schema Learning blog post are a little different than what I am considering for my research. They are related, though. Schemas, as John Clapper uses the term, refers to categories of information. Students learn the characteristics of the category and are able to sort new information, determining if the new information is in or out of the category. This corresponds to the "concept" type in my instructional design model. (You can read more than you probably want to know about my model here:

What I would like to investigate in my research is whether or not the structures and grammar of ASL  -- use of signing space, time line, for example -- can be utilized by the graphical presentation of content in asynchronous e-learning as a schema, and would using it as a schema reduce cognitive load and make learning difficult content easier for signing learners.

To get to that question, there are a lot of other questions that have to be answered. How should I measure cognitive load? There seems to be some controversy about that topic. What features of ASL would be most useful to be used as part of a schema? How would that schema translate to graphical presentation of content?

The Chair of the Psychology Department warned me that my research question is more like a dissertation than a thesis.  It does probably have a life-time of work in it. But I think that is a good thing, don't you? If, in the next two years,  I can get the questions listed and understand what work has already been done on this topic, and find an ASL linguist who is willing to work with me, then I will consider the next two years well spent.


Post a Comment