Empirical study to Cognitive Load and the PI theory

Final Project of the Master Program: Educational and Training System Design (ETSD)

Empirical study to Cognitive Load and the PI theory with well-designed products for procedure skills and parallel instructions

By Tao Yu

Graduation committee: Jef Moonen & Rik Min

August, 2002

Chapter 1. Introduction, Context and Research Questions
Chapter 2. Theoretical Background
Chapter 3. General Description on Design and Redesign the Experiment
Chapter 4. Specific Design and Redesign
Chapter 5. Experience and Evaluation
Chapter 6. Conclusion & Reflection

Preface and acknowledgement

A philosophy behind my project is learning by doing, improving by working. Learning literatures on the PI theory and other relevant theories is to enhance the theoretical base; doing, here refer to join in the activities of design and redesign as well as to experience the experiment and to improve the comprenhesion of the knowledge. The project is not only a design for the subjects but also a learning methodology for myself. This thesis is a honest record for the experience on an empirical study about Parallelism and the PI theory, at the same time it describes the procedure and process of an instructional design and redesign as well as the experiment in terms of the design. It also provides the basic data and imformation on application of the PI theory in web-based learning environment, which could be make reference to the educators, instructors and course desigers.

Like most of my colleagues’, this thesis has evolved with the advice, feedback and help of many people. I would like in particular thank Prof. Dr. Jef Moonen, chairman of the graduation committee, and Dr. Ir. Rik. Min, my mentor. They support me a lot in this project and I could not finish my project without their kind help.

Again, I am indebted to my family and friends in China. They support me to study abroad and help me so much in spirit and materials.

I must specially mention the colleagues and students who joined in my experiment and helped me to collect the valuable data for my project.

I gratefully acknowledge that Cees van Vilsteren, Jan Nelissen in the program management and Johan Jonker in technological aspects provide me so much support.


The purpose of this project is to study Parallelism and the PI theory as well as relevant theories, to apply Parallelism and the PI theory in instructional design and to experience the designed and redesigned experiment to test and evaluate Parallelism and the PI theory in a web-based learning environment.

A strategy of empirical study is adopted in the process of the project. We designed (or redesigned) a web-site for our test-bed, in which my empirical study is done. The deliverable materials supporting for this Web site are information about Parallelism, the PI theory as well as relevant theories, underlying the procedure skills, the designing model and data collection in a scientific way in problem-solving environments.

Table of Content

Chapter 1. Introduction, Context and Research Questions

1.1 Introduction to the context and general problem
1.1.1 The general context

1.1.2 Problem description

1.2 Parallelism and the PI theory

1.2.1 Concept of Parallelism

1.2.2 levels and types of Parallelism

1.2.3 The Parallel Instruction Theory

1.3 Structure of this thesis

Chapter 2. Theoretical Background

2.1 Philosophies about learning
2.1.1 Constructivism

2.1.2 Empiricism

2.1.3 Pragmatism

2.2 Theories concerned with Parallelism and the PI theory

2.2.1 Overview of the Cognitive Load Theory

2.2.2 Overview of the Split Attention Theory

2.2.3 Overview of the Dual Codes Theory

2.2.4 Overview of the Cognitive Flexibility Theory

2.2.5 Overview of Information Processing Theory

2.3 Examples relevant to the application of Parallelism and the PI theory

2.3.1 Experiment guided by the PI theory

2.3.2 Elastic Windows: a web site relating to the PI theory

Chapter 3. General Description on Design and Redesign the Experiment

3.1 Specific Context for the Design and Redesign
3.1.1 About the TO Faculty

3.1.2 About TeleTOP

3.2 General Design and Redesign

3.2.1 Decisions on design, redesign and experiment

3.2.2 Design Model

3.2.3 Development of the project

Chapter 4. Specific Design and Redesign

4.1 Design material and instrument
4.1.1 Overview of HTML

4.1.2 Brief review of JavaScript

4.1.3 Example of the product made of HTML and JavaScript

4.2 Designed Object

4.2.1 Interface of the design and redesign

4.2.2 Interface of the Automatic Logging System (ALT)

Chapter 5. Experience and Evaluation

5.1 Experience
5.1.1 Goal of experience

5.1.2 Contex and Instrument for the experiment

5.1.3 Procedure and Responses

5.2 Evaluation

5.2.1 Goal and Types of Evaluation

5.2.2 Instrument of the Evaluation

5.2.3 Procedures: Formative Evaluation and Summative Evaluation

5.2.4 Automatic Logging System (ALS) for Data Collection

5.3 Results of the experience and the evaluation

5.3.1 Observation and recording in experiment

5.3.2 Result of the Data Collection

Chapter 6. Conclusion & Reflection

6.1 Conclusion
6.2 Reflection

6.2.1 Better design and redesign could be achieved for this experiment

6.2.2 For the empirical study and the PI theory

List of the Figures

Figure 1. The first order parallelism
Figure 2. The second order parallelism
Figure 3. Parallelism: A monitor and sheets of paper
Figure 4. Parallelism: Different windows
Figure 5. An example of parallelism (type 4)
Figure 6. Parallelism: Different viewports (type 5)
Figure 7. An example of parallelism (type 5)
Figure 8. Parallelism: A big web page
Figure 9. Schematic scheme about parallelism on the input and output sides of learning process
Figure 10. A working environment with parallelism
Figure 11. Example of Elastic window
Figure 12. Interface of TeleTOP
Figure 13. The concept of Parallelism
Figure 14. The design model
Figure 15. The scheme of Task A
Figure 16. The scheme of Task B
Figure 17. The scheme of Task C
Figure 18. The scheme of Task D
Figure 19. The scheme of Task E
Figure 20. The web-site designed by using HTML and JavaScript
Figure 21. Interface of the experiments
Figure 22. Interface of the Experiment 1
Figure 23. Interface of Task 1
Figure 24. Schematic design of Task 4
Figure 25. Interface of Task 4
Figure 26. Interface of Task 2
Figure 27. Interface of Task 3
Figure 28. Interface of Task 5
Figure 29. Interface of the automatic logging system
Figure 30. Schematic structure of a computer screen
Figure 31. Schematice structure designed for Task 2
Figure 32. Example of the interface of structure of Task 2 in window
Figure 33. Flowchart of the procedure of finishing one task
Figure 34. The example of data analysis for Task 3

List of Tables

Table 1. Time and place dimensions of teaching environments
Table 2. Schedule of the project
Table 3. Theoretical sequences of four tasks
Table 4. The designed scheme of the real experiment
Table 5. Elements of JavaScript
Table 6. Program made of HTML and JavaScript
Table 7. Indication of Task 1
Table 8. Instruction of Task 1
Table 9. Indication of Task 4
Table 10. Instruction of Task 2
Table 11. Instruction of Task 3
Table 12. Instruction of Task 5
Table 13.General conditions of instrument
Table 14. The concrete requestment of each task
Table 15. The general information of the subjects
Table 16. The general information of the responses of the subjects
Table 17. Example of checklist
Table 18. Questions for interviews
Table 19. Example of the data feedback collected by ALT
Table 20. Outcome of the observation
Table 21. Overview of the outcome of data analysis
Table 23. The mean time from the data analysis

Enschede, sept. 2, 2002