A Cognitive Load Theory Approach to Understanding Expert Scaffolding of Visual Problem-Solving Tasks: A Scoping Review

Christine C. A. van Nooijen*, Bjorn B. de Koning, Wichor M. Bramer, Anna Isahakyan, Maryam Asoodar, Ellen Kok, Jeroen J. G. van Merrienboer, Fred Paas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

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Visual problem-solving is an essential skill for professionals in various visual domains. Novices in these domains acquire such skills through interactions with experts (e.g., apprenticeships). Experts guide novice visual problem-solving with scaffolding behaviours. However, there is little consensus about the description and classification of scaffolding behaviours in practice, and to our knowledge, no framework connects scaffolding to underlying cognitive mechanisms. Understanding effective scaffolding is particularly relevant to domain-specific expert-novice research regarding visual problem-solving, where in-person scaffolding by an expert is a primary teaching method. Scaffolding regulates the flow of information within the learner's working memory, thereby reducing cognitive load. By examining scaffolding research from the perspective of cognitive load theory, we aspire to classify scaffolding behaviours as cognitive behaviours of cueing (which involves attention allocation) and chunking (the practice of grouping information, often in conjunction with prior knowledge), into a cohesive and unified framework. In this scoping review, 6533 articles were considered, from which 18 were included. From these 18 articles, 164 excerpts describing expert-novice interaction were examined and categorised based on cognitive strategy (cueing or chunking) and method of expression (verbal or nonverbal). An inductive category (active or passive) was also identified and coded. Most scaffolding behaviours were categorised as active verbal cueing and active verbal chunking. Qualitative patterns in excerpts were collated into 12 findings. Our framework may help to integrate existing and new scaffolding research, form the basis for future expert-novice interaction research, and provide insights into the fine-grained processes that comprise scaffolded visual problem-solving.
Original languageEnglish
Article number12
Number of pages42
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

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