Tip #254: Introducing Cognitive Load Theory

white businesswoman and

In early December, Janis Taylor sent me this intriguing note:

I forget how I came across ‘cognitive load theory’ but I find it fascinating. I wonder if you have any good resources you could suggest or insights on the topic. I know when I’m learning something new I reach the point where I say, “Don’t tell me anything else, I need to absorb this first.” And I’ve observed the same with my learners when we try to introduce too many new concepts at the same time.

Maybe the subject of a future ‘tip’?

Quite honestly, I had never even heard of cognitive load theory before. So, I started to collect as much information as I could about the topic. When I began to read some of the research articles, my initial response was: Thanks a lot, Janis! This is heavy stuff for someone who just wants sound bites!

Although the articles may not be written in a way that accomplishes this, the intention of cognitive load theory is to avoid overwhelming the learner with new information. My first source: Cognitive Load Theory and the Role of Learner Experience: An Abbreviated Review for Educational Practitioners (2008), by Anthony R. Artino, Jr., ( I was attracted by the promise of the abbreviated review!!) provided the following information: The basic premise of CLT is that learners have a working memory with very limited capacity when dealing with new information.

Many of us are already aware that working memory can only hold about seven (plus or minus two) items or chunks of information at a time. (That is why telephone numbers have only seven digits.)

Although working memory can hold only a limited number of items at a time, the size and complexity of those items are unlimited!

However, we are able to process (organize, contrast or compare) only two or three items of information at the same time.

And if new information in working memory is not rehearsed, it is lost within about 15-30 seconds!

So, how does CLT think we can expand the capacity of our working memory?

This is where long-term memory comes into play. The capacity of long-term memory is essentially limitless. The information held in long-term memory is organized and stored in schemas that categorize elements of information according to how they will be used. These schemas effectively expand working memory capacity because complex schemas consisting of huge arrays of interrelated elements can be held in working memory as a single entity.

Automation is another critical component of schema construction. Automation occurs when information stored in schemas can be processed automatically and without conscious effort, thereby freeing up working memory resources. Constructed schemas because automated after extensive practice.

Another important characteristic of working memory is that it has two separate channels for processing visual and auditory information. The implication of this dual-processing model is that limited working memory capacity can be effectively expanded by using both visual and auditory channels rather than either processing channels alone.

Related Posts

Manage Your Holiday Stress Before It Manages You!

Saturday, December 10th from 11 AM to 2:30 PM CST

Over the river to grandmother’s house- we have an idea in our mind about how the holiday should be. But planning, shopping, baking, wrapping gifts, and preparing the house all take a toll. It’s easy to become anxious, worried about creating a perfect, memorable holiday. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or some other winter holiday. There are traditions to keep, favorite foods to prepare, and decorations to put up. It’s exhausting.

Then there’s the actual day. You will want everyone to feel happy and get along, but you know that the stress of the day can easily result in overexcited and grumpy grandchildren and irritable adult children. You imagine that all the time and effort you put into creating a lovely day could end up being wasted and unappreciated.

Holidays are supposed to be a joyful time. Let us help you get clear about what is not worth worrying about- and give you practical coping strategies that will help you stay calm when things don’t go the way you want them to go.

Join us for this highly interactive half-day virtual workshop on how to Manage Your Holiday Stress Before It Manages You on Saturday, December 10th from 11 AM to 2:30 PM CST. Your investment is $120. We guarantee that you will have a much less stressful holiday.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to Deal with Difficult People.

In this course you will define the behavioral characteristics and underlying needs of difficult people, assess situations in which you effectively handled a difficult person, review five steps for handling difficult people Laurel & Associates now offers courses through Teachable. Learn at your own pace.
Popular Post

Share This Post