Measuring perceived mental workload in children.
Little is known about the mental workload, or psychological costs, associated with information processing tasks in children. We adapted the highly regarded NASA Task Load Index (NASA-TLX) multidimensional workload scale (Hart & Staveland, 1988) to test its efficacy for use with elementary school children. We developed 2 types of tasks, each with 2 levels of demand, to draw differentially on resources from the separate subscales of workload. In Experiment 1, our participants were both typical and school-labeled gifted children recruited from 4th and 5th grades. Results revealed that task type elicited different workload profiles, and task demand directly affected the children's experience of workload. In general, gifted children experienced less workload than typical children. Objective response time and accuracy measures provide evidence for the criterion validity of the workload ratings. In Experiment 2, we applied the same method with 1st- and 2nd-grade children. Findings from Experiment 2 paralleled those of Experiment 1 and support the use of NASA-TLX with even the youngest elementary school children. These findings contribute to the fledgling field of educational ergonomics and attest to the innovative application of workload research. Such research may optimize instructional techniques and identify children at risk for experiencing overload.
Laurie-Rose, C; Frey, M; Ennis, A; Zamary, A
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