I stepped aside from my struggles with the incredible amount of homework taking six graduate course credits in six weeks entails long enough to look at what I was learning about research.  I’ve a long way to go yet, but here’s a partial list:

  • Theoretical frameworks are hard work, but not guesswork.
  • The difference between a bibliography annotation and a research summary is more than just a word count.
  • Academic critique is not the same as negative criticism.
  • Google Scholar knows where full text articles hide when the university library doesn’t.
  • Reference lists provide more than just APA compliance.

I have discovered that locating sources from the reference list helps me discover practical applications for research findings.  The cognitive load theory research by Wong, Leahy, Marcus, & Sweller (2012) led me to Sweller’s 1994 work on cognitive load theory, a substantial read during which I accomplished very little writing, but a lot to think about that begins to converge with my teaching practice.  Sweller’s “schema”, his word for algorithms or methods we retrieve from long-term memory to solve problems without having to analyze or figure them out from scratch (my interpretation, not paraphrase), require very little working memory, and storing these schema in long-term memory, he claims, is the goal of learning (1994).  This seemed a bit simplistic and behaviourist; “but it was 1994” I typed in a PDF comment.  Then I discovered his “goal-free problems” (Sweller, 1994, p. 301) example where the teacher removes the goal of finding a specific angle in a trigonometry problem and asks students instead to find the value of as many angles as they can.  By removing the specific goal, the students are freed from the cognitive load of determining “the” intermediate steps and, solving what they can, inductively formulate the schema (Sweller, 1994; Sweller, Ayres, & Kalyuga, 2011).  I have more reading to do, but this promises to transform my developmental math instruction.


Sweller, J. (1994). Cognitive load theory, learning difficulty, and instructional design. Learning and Instruction, 4(4), 295–312.

Sweller, J., Ayres, P., & Kalyuga, S. (2011). Cognitive Load Theory. Springer Science & Business Media. Retrieved from

Wong, A., Leahy, W., Marcus, N., & Sweller, J. (2012). Cognitive load theory, the transient information effect and e-learning. Learning and Instruction, 22(6), 449–457.



About Jim

Community Adult Educator & Adult Literacy Instructor
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One Response to Convergence

  1. Maha Bali says:

    Nice 🙂 thanks for sharing the steps in your journey

    And let me say from my v limited experience that you have “arrived” 🙂 it was a transformative moment in my PhD when I realized Google scholar finds open access links to things (and if ur logged in and u tell it which libraries u have access to it will tell u if it’s available in ur library). And the discovery of using references for further reading (and Google scholar “cited by” also).

    Lemme give u another trick: read book reviews before u read books. It may help u read the book more critically 🙂 or decide it’s not worth ur time and instead read the article version (most single-author books have article versions that summarize the main argument)

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