Saturday, July 6, 2013

Metacognitive Tools are Essential for Reducing Learning Overload

An effective educator creates a defined learning culture by optimizing structured learning through the utilization of strategies exhibiting high levels of success.  The first pursuit in this endeavor is to mitigate learning overload.  Learning overload prevents educators from helping students realize progress and achieve stated goals (Reason, 2010).  Citing Kennedy (2006) and Franklin (2005), Reason (2010) further notes, “We can’t alter the brain to hold more information, but we can change our approach to learning in ways that reduce overwhelm and prepare us to deal with institutional challenges more effectively” (p. 99). 
 In any learning environment, the student’s reticular activating system (RAS) impacts his or her attention and motivation.  Therefore, the RAS impacts how efficiently students address the curriculum focal points.  The effective educator recognizes this and seeks to “clearly identify the learning focal points that matter” (Reason, 2010, p. 100) as a way to mitigate stressors that overwhelms one’s perception and attention to curriculum focal points. 
Vygotsky (1979) believed that the most important thing a culture passes on to its members are psychological tools.  These are cognitive devices and procedures with which we communicate and explore the world around us.  They both aid and change our mental functioning.  Speech, writing, gestures, diagrams, numbers, chemical formulas, musical notation, rules, and memory techniques are some common psychological tools.  Eventually these social interactions become internalized as cognitive processes that are automatically invoked.  Quoting Vygotsky, researchers Tudge and Scrimsher (2003) advocate that “through others we become ourselves” (p. 218).
Effective learning environments utilize these psychological tools, thereby reducing learning overload by optimizing metacognition (Bohlin et al., 2008)  In the FAT City Workshop, Lavoie (1989) encourages avoiding creation of instructional environments that exacerbate frustration, anxiety, and tension (FAT).  Prospective and in-service teachers are encouraged to eliminate FAT in the classrooms, thereby optimizing a learning environment approaching nirvana (LEAN).  Acronyms and mnemonics are two psychological tools utilizing social interactions within an educational environment to effectively reduce neurological overload and increase learning of desired goals.

To cite:
Anderson, C.J. (July 5, 2013) Metacognitive tools are essential for reducing learning overload  
                 [Web log post]. Retrieved from


Bohlin, L., Durwin, C., & Reese-Weber, M. (2008). Ed psych: Modules. NY: McGraw-Hill.
Lavoie, R. (1989) How difficult can this be? F.A.T. City--A learning disabilities
             workshop DVD. Retrieved from
Reason, C. (2010). Leading a learning organization: The science of working with others. 
            Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.
Tudge, J., & Scrimsher, S. (2003). Lev S. Vygotsky on education: A cultural-historical,
            interpersonal, and individual approach to development. In B. J. Zimmerman &
            D. H. Schunk (Eds.), Educational psychology: A century of contributions
           (pp. 207–228) Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum