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The ergonomics of learning: educational design and learning performance

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The application of ergonomics/human factors (E/HF) principles and practices, and the implementation of ergonomics programmes, have achieved proven success in improving performance, productivity, competitiveness, and safety and health in most occupational sectors. However, the benefits that the application of E/HF science might bring to promoting student learning have yet to be widely recognized. This paper deals with the fundamental purpose of education - student learning - and with the question of how the ergonomic design of the learning environment influences learning performance. The underlying premise, embodied in the quote below, is that student learning performance to a substantial degree is context specific - influenced and specialized in relation to specific design factors in the learning environment. The basic scientific question confronting learning ergonomics is which design characteristics in the learning environment have the greatest influence on variability in learning performance. Practically, the basic challenge is to apply this scientific understanding to ergonomic interventions directed at design improvements of learning environments to benefit learning. This paper expands upon these themes by addressing the origins and scope of learning ergonomics, differing perspectives on the nature of learning, evidence for context specificity in learning and conclusions and research implications regarding an ergonomics perspective on learning.
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Keywords: Behavioural cybernetics; Educational ergonomics; Learning ergonomics

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Human Factors Research Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, Minneapolis, MN

Publication date: October 1, 2007

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