Use of an eye-tracking technique to measure cognitive load in chemistry education research

CHED 346

Jessica R. VandenPlas, Jessica.VandenPlas@nau.edu, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Northern Arizona University, PO Box 5698, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, Frank R. Yekovich, Yekovich@cua.edu, Department of Education, The Catholic University of America, 620 Michigan Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20064, and Diane M. Bunce, Bunce@cua.edu, Department of Chemistry, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064.
The use of a remote eye-tracker to measure cognitive load will be discussed. Cognitive load is a measure of the burden placed on working memory by a given activity. During instruction, student cognitive load is affected both by the inherent difficulty of the material being taught, as well as the additional load imposed by the instructional materials themselves. Decreasing the extraneous load of instructional materials increases the ability of students to process difficult material; therefore measuring cognitive load should be useful to instructors and designers of instructional materials, such as animations. Measurements of cognitive load are generally qualitative in nature, but task-evoked pupillary response (TEPR) has recently been used as a correlate of cognitive load. The TEPR is a small, involuntary dilation of the pupil in response to mental effort. This pilot study utilizes TEPR of individuals viewing particulate-level chemistry animations in order to assess the cognitive load of these instructional materials for both expert and novice chemists.