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Webinar on split-attention in the classroom now online

Image: The Clerc Center hosted a webinar on preventing visual split-attention that was presented by Dr. Susan Mather.

The Clerc Center hosted a webinar on preventing visual split-attention that was presented by Dr. Susan Mather.

When a teacher presents information along with visual supports, for example, using an interpreter, writing on a black board, or giving a PowerPoint presentation, the learners have no choice but to divide their visual attention.

Understanding this classroom situation and its impact on a student's learning capability was the subject of a free Clerc Center webinar presented on December 4, 2013 by Dr. Susan Mather, a professor in the Linguistics Department at Gallaudet University. This webinar is now available to view online.

"Spilt-attention is an issue in the classroom because it overloads a student's working memory," said Mather.  In this webinar, she presented on how by incorporating some visually based learning strategies can go a long way towards eliminating traditionally low levels of academic achievements for deaf and hard of hearing students. As a result of visual split-attention, the students experience either high levels of cognitive load or cognitive overload, adversely affecting their classroom performance. However, Mather has found that recent research shows there are strategies that teachers can use to reduce the effect of split-attention. This webinar covered the following topics:

  • Differences between auditory-oriented classrooms and visually oriented classrooms
  • Impact of visual split-attention on cognitive overload and working memory
  • Shifting attention between visual fields in the classroom
  • Strategies to reduce the effect of split-attention in various types of classroom situations

For additional information, download the PowerPoint file used in this webinar and read Mather's 2012 Odyssey article on visual split-attention.

Mather earned her doctorate in sociolinguistics with minors in applied linguistics and anthropology from Georgetown University. Among her published research includes an investigation of classroom discourse strategies, including proper use of eye gaze. Mather continues to research visual split-attention effects due to non-integrated speaking/signing along with use of classroom props with students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

All Clerc Center webinars are archived, and free and available for convenient playback.