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Heads Up!

We’re taking a much-needed break next week but we’ll be back the first week of November! In the meantime, enjoy this week’s roundup of research.

Knights of the Round Table

Here’s a quick one for you. In a recent study, researchers asked the question, “Does the shape of the table learners are sitting at affect their ability to collaboratively solve problems?” File this under “things I never knew I wanted to know.”

Key Takeaway: The shape of the table does not affect collaborative problem-solving, unless you’re teaching kindergarteners; in that case, round tables led to more effective collaboration with study participants.

Read More (paywall): Vujovic, M., Hernández‐Leo, D., Tassani, S. and Spikol, D. (2020). Round or rectangular tables for collaborative problem solving? A multimodal learning analytics study. British Journal of Educational Technology, 51, pp. 1597-1614.


Is it better to have learners who are frustrated or ones who are bored? The quick answer: frustrated. Researchers investigated learners’ emotions and found that “that boredom was very persistent across learning environments and was associated with poorer learning and problem behaviors, such as gaming the system,” whereas frustrated users did actually learn something, even if they weren’t enjoying it.

Key Takeaway: There’s something to be said for keeping learners psychologically engaged (and awake).

Read More (paywall): Baker, S.J.D.R., D’Mello, S., Rodrigo, M.M.T., & Graesser, A.C. (2010). Better to be frustrated than bored: The incidence, persistence, and impact of learners’ cognitive–affective states during interactions with three different computer-based learning environments. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 68(4), p. 223-241.

How Does It Make You Feel?

In a study that examined how medical students felt during online learning exercises that simulated actual patient interactions, researchers found that most of the doctors-to-be felt positive emotions, like curiosity, about the cases, but some had negative emotions, like confusion. The results suggest that “increasing trainees’ perceptions of control over their ability to succeed may help to improve performance by reducing the intensity of negative emotions, at the same time as promoting positive emotions,” (p. 11).

Key Results: One approach to improve positive emotions is to increase understanding of expectations; you can also provide additional training opportunities prior to the task to better equip learners to manage challenges. During a learning task, scaffolds may help to decrease negative emotions (p. 11).

Read More (paywall): Duffy, M.C., Lajoie, S.P., Pekrun, R., & Lachapelle, K. (2020). Emotions in medical education: Examining the validity of the Medical Emotion Scale across authentic medical learning environments. Learning & Instruction, 70.

Press Pause

In a study that aimed to empirically investigate the “pause effect” on cognitive load and performance, researchers gave medical students the ability to pause a simulation of an emergency medical situation while tracking their pupil sizes. (“Since pupil dilation is controlled by the autonomous nervous system, it reveals some aspects of cognitive load that subjective ratings cannot capture,” p. 9.) Participants also self-reported their cognitive load before, during, and after the exercises. About half of the learners didn’t use the pause button, even when overloaded, which is consistent with previous studies that found that learners are not able to identify when to pause a video or e-learning module.

Key Finding: This is another study that suggests instructional designers and instructors should help prevent learners’ cognitive overload by segmenting content into chunks for them or pausing for reflection.

Read More (open access): Lee, J.Y., Donkers, J., Jarodzka, H., Sellenraad, G., & van Merrienboer, J.J.G. (2020). Different effects of pausing on cognitive load in a medical simulation game. Computers in Human Behavior, 110.

Stay Up Late…

...and hang out with the Seattle EdTech Meetup group, which is hosting a virtual panel on Tuesday, October 27 at 7 pm PDT. LSW’s editor-in-chief Dr. J will chat with panel members about the difference between K-12 education and adult learning.

More info:

Symone is a fourth-year doctoral candidate at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. Her research interests are around the use of community-based science practices, focused in an environmental justice framework, to contextualize school science in the local environment in an effort to create greater connections between school and community, and make science a more meaningful and relevant subject for students of color.

More specifically, she looks at how these equity-oriented community-based practices can allow us to better incorporate, and draw upon, student funds of knowledge in science as a foundation for not only understanding and engaging in investigations of their lived worlds, but also understanding school science content knowledge.

Within the learning sciences, her interests are around design-based research, and co-designing culturally-relevant science curriculum along with teachers and students.

Pets of Learning Science Weekly

This week we're featuring Goudacris, faithful companion of reader Lola B.J. and "excellent Zoom assistant/supervisor." It looks like she fell asleep on the job!

Send us your pet pics at

Wondering why we’re including animal photos in a learning science newsletter? It may seem weird, we admit. But we’re banking on the baby schema effect and the “power of Kawaii.” So, send us your cute pet pics -- you’re helping us all learn better!

The LSW Crew

Learning Science Weekly is edited by Julia Huprich, Ph.D. Our head of growth and community is Julieta Cygiel.

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