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IMPROVING LEARNING DESIGN AND EDUCATION OUTCOMES THROUGH COGNITIVE PSYCHOLOGY: THE EFFECTS OF CONTROL OPPORTUNITIES ON INFORMATION PROCESSING AND MENTAL FATIGUE

Mıchalıs Varkas

Abstract: Persistent mental fatigue induced by sustained task performance and mental workload has been shown to have serious cognitive effects such as lowered discrimination capacity, circumscribed range of attention, and increased distractibility, all reducing the ability to absorb information and leading to impaired learning. Studies show that having greater autonomy in choosing how to complete given cognitive tasks is associated with lower levels of strain and better educational outcomes. The present study investigated the effects of control opportunities over a series of information processing tasks on mental fatigue and learning. Adapting a yoked - subject experimental design, it was assumed that provision of varying degrees of personal control over the method and timing on a series of information processing tasks would determine the degree of participants’ mental fatigue. The overall pattern of results was consistent with our expectations as indicated by subjective measures of affective state prior to and after the information processing tasks. Enhanced opportunities for personal control over the timing and methods of action were associated with lower levels of mental fatigue. The results have significant implications for educational purposes. In terms of learning design, it is vital to reduce the time spent on exerting high effort. One way of doing this is by the provision of opportunities for performing information processing tasks in different ways and with different pace. This will enhance personal control over a given cognitive activity and result in low levels of fatigue, since more effort can be applied in parts of the task that are more interesting (tasks can be carried out in a preferable order and pace), while more boring parts can be dealt with by the application of less effort. A general conclusion can be drawn from the findings: Given mental tasks or activities that impose greater limitations on personal control are associated with less favourable results.
Keywords: fatigue / cognitive / information processing / opportunities / LEARNING DESIGN / lower levels / associated with lower / mental tasks / Adapting

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