What Does Chunking Have to Do With Learning?

How does this apply to training and learning? Learners should not be thinking about lower level skills while trying to learn new ones. These lower level skills should be automatic. Wherever possible, include training and learning aids that are auditory and/or visual to support the learning. Engage the learner in high levels of involvement and interaction. Remember, learning is an active process in the mind.

Ask questions. The objective is to get the knowledge into long-term memory so it can be transferred and retrieved. Although the storage capacity in long-term memory is vast, it needs to be organized in different ways for learners to be able to retrieve it. You may want to use different techniques depending on the content.
You chunk your content depending on what type of content it is. If the content is based on facts, definitions, procedures and rules, you can include linear ordering images and visuals, graphic organizers, charts, tables, maps, drawings or illustrations. You can also use short statements that can be easily and immediately recognized by the learner as being either true or false.

If your content is based on performance criteria or a “how to” scenario, it helps to place your instruction in meaningful settings or in an authentic context. Remember, authentic means authentic for the learner; it doesn’t have to be real- world. Mix up the conditions and add some changes and variety to the conditions if that is what the learner can expect to experience when applying the content. Use an approach that starts simply and then builds in levels of complexity. Group the modules according to performance objectives and specific levels of mastery for each individual task. The idea is for the learner to become so proficient with the skill that as he/she moves to the next level, the prior level of skill becomes automatic. In other words, as the learner moves up the level of mastery, the lower level skills should be able to be performed without much conscious thought. If this sounds a bit too behaviorist or objectivist for your tastes, never fear. You can still be a constructivist in your design approach and manage cognitive load.

When in doubt, remember that short is better than long. Remember the law of proximity! Group things logically! Combine like things and put like next to like. Be sure to give the learner the foundations for success. Present the basic information first. Do not ask the learner to fill in the gaps or the holes and make associations that are not realistic. Gain the learners’ attention and keep it directed toward the objectives. Keep it short. Keep it simple.

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