Cognitive aging and training: the role of instructional coherence and advance organizers.

Experimental aging research

PubMedID: 24625045

Wolfson NE, Kraiger K. Cognitive aging and training: the role of instructional coherence and advance organizers. Exp Aging Res. 2014;40(2):164-86.
Background/Study Context: This study investigates whether there is a need for age-specific computer-based instructional design. The authors examined the effect of two design principles, instructional coherence and advance organizers, on learning outcomes of older and younger adults. Instructional coherence refers to the idea that people learn more deeply when information not directly relevant to learning goals is removed from training. Advance organizers are organizing frameworks for intended training content. Methods: Participants consisted of younger and older adults (mean ages were 21.7 and 75.1, respectively). Younger adults were university students and older adults were recruited from various sources, including retirement homes, senior activity centers, and online communities. We used a 2 (young, old) × 2 (low coherence, high coherence) × 2 (no advance organizer, advance organizer) between-subjects design and analyzed data using a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). Results: Analyses revealed that (1) older adults performed worse on learning outcome measures compared with younger adults; (2) instructional coherence significantly improved the learning performance of both older and younger adults (Hypothesis 1 supported); and (3) advanced organizers improved the performance of older adults but did not affect the performance of younger adults in transfer tasks (Hypothesis 4 supported). Conclusion: The latter finding (that advance organizers had differential effects on older and younger adults) suggests that perhaps there is a need for age-specific instructional formats. Future researchers should further explore whether and how age affects the learning process by examining the effect of different design principles on learning outcomes of older and younger adults.