School of Education


Doctor of Education in Curriculum & Instruction (EdD)


John Duryea


Cognitive Load Theory, Extraneous Cognitive Load, Germane Cognitive Load, Intrinsic Cognitive Load, Working Memory, Indexing




The purpose of this qualitative case study was to explore the usefulness of higher-level search techniques to reduce students’ cognitive load. The central question of the study is, “What causes students of higher education to avoid using syntax operator commands to provide better search results?” The participants in the study were new students at a community college in northern Arizona. As defined by Sweller (1988), cognitive load theory indicates that the reduction of cognitive load increases learning and reduces stress, guided this study. The sample size was five participants. Data were collected through semi structured individual interviews in a closed office location. Data were then triangulated to synthesize the findings from participants. Field notes, journal records, interview transcripts, observations, focus groups, audio, and video recordings were utilized. The results of the research confirmed beginning students have limited searching skills, and the education system does not usually provide such instruction. The implications for this research are schools need to include a curriculum that provides searching skills, at which point the student is entering school. Future research needs to include more instruction on students indexing their own content. and that will reduce extraneous cognitive load.

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