Cognitive Load Principles

Cognitive architecture fundamental principles, into which cognitive load theory is placed, rests upon the following argument.

1.    Working memory is extremely limited.

2.    Long term memory is essentially unlimited.

3.    The process of learning requires working memory to be actively engaged in the comprehension of to-be-learnt content and the encoding of such content into long term memory as schemas.

4.    If the resources of working memory are exceeded during processing then learning will be ineffective.


Cognitive load theory principles focus on the role of working memory in the learning process.

The specific strategies used in applying cognitive load theory are based upon the following features of cognitive load.

1.    Intrinsic cognitive load is due to the nature of the to-be-learnt content. It includes attending to the elements of content, the interactions between those elements and relationships between presented information and currently held schemas.

2.    Intrinsic cognitive load cannot be lowered without lessening the total body of the defined to-be-learnt content.

3.    Extraneous cognitive load is due to the instructional design. It is not related to the to-be-learnt content, nor to its learning.

4.    Extraneous cognitive load may be reduced by redesigning instructional materials.

5.    Cognitive resources freed from extraneous cognitive load activities are made available to be used in germane aspects of learning. Consequently learning is enhanced.

6.    Germane cognitive activities may be increased by designing instructional materials and/ or activities to utilise aspects of the learners evolving schemas and level of automation. This increases intrinsic cognitive load because it amplifyies interactivity between the to-be-learnt content and the learners existing schemas.

7.    Provided that increasing intrinsic cognitive load through increasing germane activities does not result in cognitive load exceeding total working memory resources, then learning will be further enhanced.



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