Cognitive Load


Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) is based on research that the part of the human brain that processes the input of information, working memory, can only deal with a limited amount of information at a time.  It was developed by John Sweller as he conducted studies on how we problem solve.  He maintained that using instructional design principles when creating learning materials can reduce cognitive load in learners.

There are three types of cognitive load defined by the theory:

  1. Intrinsic- the inherent level of difficulty of a subject.  This can be influenced by prior knowledge.
  2. Extraneous- the load generated by the way the material is presented.  This is where instructional design can help.
  3. Germane- the load or mental resources devoted to acquiring and building schemata in long-term memory.

It is extremely difficult if not impossible to reduce cognitive load completely.  The job of the instructional designer is to help faculty break down the material into logical chunks, sequencing the delivery and tasks, provide clear instructions for the learners, and follow the principles of design when using multimedia in the instruction.

The video and other resources in this chapter expands on this topic touching on how the human memory works and how we learn.






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