💁🏻‍♀️ Stop Overwhelming your Students' Brain - How to Apply Cognitive Overload

Aug 1 / The Dance Scientist
Cognitive Load is an important concept that Dance Educators need to be aware of because you need to understand how different age levels process information. Now let's discuss actual ways Dance Educators can APPLY this important concept.

1. Attention is Limited: One of the first concepts to understand about CO is that attention capacity is limited... I like to think of this as someone's personal ceiling! Therefore, tasks actually compete with each other for attention so we have to make sure our cues are not overwhelming our students.

2. Association will Help: If a learner can associate their new task to a task that they already know, this new task will take up LESS of the available capacity. This will actually leave room for new information (Enghauser, 2003).
3. Beginner vs. Advanced Learners: For beginners, basically everything they learn is new, so there's less existing information for the new tasks to cling into (Enghauser, 2003). This means that beginner learners reach their 'ceiling' much faster than an advanced learner.

4. Use Shorter Combos: Teachers can use shorter combinations that have simpler movements for beginner learners (Enghauser, 2003).

5. Keep Instructions Short: Teachers can also keep their initial instructions short, such as focusing on 2-3 important points(Enghauser, 2003).

6. Don't Constantly Cue: Teachers also should be aware that learners self-instruct mentally as they are dancing and this takes space from their working memory (Enghauser, 2003). So if the teacher is constantly cuing, students can get overwhelmed and their processing can become delayed(Enghauser, 2003).

7. Relate to Existing Knowledge:
Teachers can also relate the new information to existing information which will take up less space of their working memory (Enghauser, 2003).

8. Use an Analogy: Teachers can also relate the new task to an analogy from sports or daily life activities (Enghauser, 2003).

9. What will happen as my dancers repeat the movement sequence? 
As students repeat a movement sequence, it becomes more automatic and takes up much less working memory (Enghauser, 2003). This leaves more room for new tasks to process.


  • Enghauser, R. (2003). Motor learning and the dance technique class: Science, tradition, and pedagogy. Journal of Dance Education, 3(3), 87–95. https://doi.org/10.1080/15290824.2003.10387235

-❤️ Maria
CEO of The Dance Scientist, L.L.C.
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