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Information Processing Theory: Overview & Practical Teaching Examples Video

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  • 0:01 Information Processing
  • 1:30 Cognitive Load
  • 3:54 Automaticity
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

How does information make its way to memory? How do people learn? In this lesson, we'll examine the information processing theory of learning, including the process of memory, cognitive load, chunking, and automaticity.

Information Processing

Joanie is just learning to read, and she's struggling. She's a very slow reader, and by the time she finishes a sentence, she can't remember how it started! Reading, like other types of learning, is about storing information in a person's mind. Specifically, learning involves storing and accessing information in memory.

But how, exactly, does this happen? There are many theories. Among them, the information processing theory of learning says that information from the world around us moves from sensory storage to working memory to long-term memory.

For example, when Joanie is reading, she is receiving sensory information from the book in front of her: Her eyes are taking in the size and shape of each letter, the letters grouped together to make words, and how it all looks on the page. That's all in sensory storage.

As she moves her eye across the page, she remembers what she just read a second or two ago. That means that the information is in working memory, or storage of memories that occurred only a few seconds in the past.

If things go right, though, Joanie will remember the information in the book longer than just a few seconds. If everything works well, it will move to long-term memory, which is really just memories that are stored for a person to access later.

Let's take a closer look at the information processing theory of learning and how teachers can apply it to help students.

Cognitive Load

When Joanie is learning how to read, it's very important for information to move from sensory to working memory to long-term memory. Why? Working memory is very limited. Only a few things can be in working memory at a time, and they can only be stored there for a few seconds.

This can cause problems in learning. Take Joanie, for example: If she's reading a paragraph, she can't remember every word in that paragraph or even every sentence. She needs to move that information to long-term memory. Otherwise, when she gets to the end of a paragraph, she will have forgotten how the paragraph started!

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