Day: April 7, 2022

How cognitive research influenced the Measuring Up Foundations instructional design

Many students struggle because they lack the foundational skills needed for grade-level standards. Foundational skills underpin the rigorous standards that are the norm in today’s classrooms. Researchers suggest teaching prerequisite skills at time of need. There is a window of opportunity for teaching and learning; the task is to know when it appears and exploit it.1 Much like building background information sets students up for learning success, teaching foundational skills as they are needed increases students’ ability to connect to increasingly difficult skills.

Accelerating Learning

The more you know about your students, the better able you will be able to accelerate their learning. But having students with learning loss or unfinished learning puts added pressure on teaching grade-level curriculum. Experts are calling for a shift in thinking from wholesale placing students in remedial programs to teaching pre-requisite skills at time of need.2 Building both background knowledge and foundational skills makes learning new and more difficult skills easier.

Building foundational skills at time of need is most effective when it incorporates recommendations made by cognitive researchers. Mayer and Moreno (2003) suggest the following:

“Eliminate distractions to keep students focused.”

“Simplify the content by segmenting it into steps.”

“Simplify the task by lowering the readability and problem complexity.”

These recommendations have shown to be effective for all students, especially for those who struggle with learning. Keeping these recommendations in mind will help to accelerate learning for all students.


  1. Killi, Steinar and Morrison, Andrew. Universal Journal of Educational Research 3(10): 742-750, 2015 DOI: 10.13189/ujer.2015.031013 Just-in-time Teaching, Just-in-need Learning: Designing towards Optimized Pedagogical Outcome. Retrieved from
  2. Mayer & Moreno (2003). Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43–52. Retrieved from
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