Toward a Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Assessment (CTMMA)

It has finally arrived. Babette Park, Sarah Malone, Halszka Jarodzka, and I wrote a book chapter – it feels like ages ago – in which we tried to make a start towards a cognitive theory of multimedia assessment. After years of patient waiting, it’s here!

Much is known about assessment in all its forms and the corpus of theory and knowledge is growing daily. In a similar vein, the use of multimedia for learning also has a sound basis in research and theory, such as the Cognitive Load Theory (CLT; Sweller, Van Merriënboer, & Paas, 1998), human information processing (e.g., Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968; Miller, 1956; Paivio, 1986), and praxis in the form of evidence-informed design principles often based on the Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTMML; Mayer, 2005b). However, the combination of the two lacks both theoretical underpinnings and practical design principles. Multimedia assessment (MMA) is, at best, either a translation of paper-based assessment and assessment principles to the computer screen or an attempt to make use of the theory and principles underlying multimedia learning (i.e., CTMML). And this is the problem. In the first place, MMA needs, just as Multimedia Learning (MML), its own theory and principles. Just as MML was not simply the translation of paper-based learning to the computer screen, MMA requires its own place. In the second place, the application of CTMML and its principles to assessment leads to problems. The CTMML is based upon the idea that learning should be facilitated by the proper use of CTMML principles and its underlying theories (CLT, Human Information Processing). In cognitive load terms: germane load is increased while extraneous load is avoided so as to facilitate effective and efficient learning. But the goal of assessment is not learner facilitation, but rather separating the wheat from the chaff. Those who do not possess the knowledge and skills need to not be able to answer the question while those who do have the knowledge and skills need to answer correctly. This may mean that certain forms of extraneous load need to be increased while germane load needs to be minimised. This chapter will kick off the road to a Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Assessment (CTMMA).

Here’s the reference:
Kirschner, P. A., Park, B., Malone, S., & Jarodzka, H. (2023). Towards a cognitive theory of multimedia assessment (CTMMA). In M. Spector, B. B. Lockee, & M. D. Childress (Eds.), Learning, Design, and Technology. An International Compendium of Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy (pp. 153-176). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing AG. 

and here’s a link to the chapter.