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Cognitive Load Theory

In Cognitive load theory (CLT) there are two main constructs of interest, cognitive load and learning. CLT was developed to explain the effects of instructional design on these two constructs (Plass, Moreno, and Brünken, 2010, p. 9).

Techniques for Reducing Intrinsic Cognitive Load

  • Modality Off-loading (Mayer, R. E., 2009. Multimedia learning (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 201)
  • Segmenting
  • Pretraining
  • Weeding
  • Signaling
  • Aligning
  • Eliminating Redundancy
  • Synchronizing
  • Individualizing

Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) is one of the most influential theories in instructional design (Plass, Moreno, Brünken, 2010, p. i).

"The objective of CLT is to predict learning outcomes by taking into consideration the capabilities and limitations of the human cognitive architecture" (Plass, Moreno, Brüken, 2010, p. 1).

The notion the the human cognitive architecture should be a major consideration when choosing or designing instructional methods for meaningful learning of complex tasks is central to the Cognitive Load Theory (CLT; Paas, Renkl, & Sweller, 2003; Sweller, 1998; Sweller, van Merriënboer, & Paas, 1998; van Merriënboer & Sweller, 2005) [from Plass, Moreno, & Brunken, 2010, p. 111].

"CLT assumes that if individuals are to learn effectively in a learning environment, the architecture of their cognitive system, the learning environment, and interactions between both must be understood, accommodated, and aligned" (Plass, Moreno, Brünken, 2010, p.111).

"[C]omplex learning . . . deals with learning to coordinate separate skills that constitute real-life task performance" (Plass, Moreno, Brünken, 2010, p.109).

"Effective performance relies on the integration of skills, knowledge, and attitudes, where for instance, complex knowledge structures are underlying problem solving and reasoning skills and particular attitudes are are critical to interpersonal skills or to performing safety procedures" (Plass, Moreno, Brünken, 2010, p. 109).

"Moreover, complex learning requires differentiation by recognizing qualitative differences among the task characteristics that influence the constituent skills that have to be applied (Plass, Moreno, Brünken, 2010, p. 109).

"According to CLT, well-chosen or well designed instructional methods should decrease [emphasis added] the load that is not necessary for learning (i.e., extraneous load, typically resulting from badly designed instruction . . . ) and optimize  [emphasis added] the load that directly contributes to learning (i.e., germane load), within the limits of total available capacity to prevent cognitive overload"  Plass, Moreno, Brünken, 2010, p. 111).

Non-recurrent skills: skills which are performed in a variable way (Plass, Moreno, Brünken, 2010, p. 109).

Recurrent skills: skills that are performed in a highly consistent way (Plass, Moreno, Brünken, 2010, p. 109).

  1. Practice variability
    • blocked practice - one version of a task is repeatedly practiced before another version of the task is introduced.
    • random practice - all versions of the task are mixed and practiced in random order.
  2. Limited Guidance
  3. Delayed Feedback

The Transfer Paradox

Elaboration Theory