8 Readings and Resources on #CognitiveLoad Theory

Cognitive load theory. Have you heard of it? It is one of digital-age learning theories with the strongest foundation in empirical research. It helps explains why math scores dropped when many people first put SmarBoards in their classrooms. it explains why many vivid graphics and images are not as effective as simple ones. It helps us consider how to manage the limited load that our brains can handle at any given time, learning to design learning resources in view of this load. Is that enough of a motivation to check it out? If so, here are eight resources to get you started, ranging from quick and easy reads to a couple of heavier research articles.

Nuts and Bolts: Brain Bandwidth – Cognitive Load Theory and Instructional Design- This is an “easy to read” introduction to the idea of cognitive load theory. You will go deeper into the concept through some of the more scholarly sources included below.

Applying Cognitive Strategies to Instructional Design – This multimedia video presentation on cognitive load theory, introduces you to many of the basic ideas about the theory as presented by Richard Mayer, one of the seminal scholars on this topic.

Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning (PDF) – This scholarly article provides an excellent and practical summary of nine key cognitive load concepts, explaining how they can help to create more effective multimedia resources for learners.

The Cognitive Load Theory – This slide deck walks you through basic vocabulary in cognitive load theory, including examples for each. You will learn the difference between the three main types of cognitive load: extraneous, intrinsic, and germane. It concludes with some practical applications for educators. –

Cognitive Load Theory and the Role of Learner Experience: An Abbreviated Review for Educational Practitioners – This scholarly article provides an important summary of some of the more important research / studies conducted about cognitive load theory and how they apply to teaching and learning. This will help you design lessons that are more informed by current research in the field. –

On the Role and Design of Video for Learning (video) – Interview with Dr. Richard Mayer – Richard Mayer is arguably the leading scholar in the area of cognitive load theory. This video will give you a chance to hear directly from Mayer, while also learning about how the theory can inform the design and use of instructional video.

Cognitive Theories of Multimedia and Instructional Design (video) – This is an important video because it provides a series of practical examples, showing how cognitive load theory can improve the design of learning resources for students.

Cognitive Load Theory Critique – If you read my blog, then you know that I rarely discuss the affordances of something without at least taking a moment to consider the limitations as well. This article offers the limitation side of things. There are critics of cognitive load theory. This article will introduce you to some of those critiques, providing you with a more balanced view of the subject. –

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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is a President of Goddard College, author, podcast host, and blogger. Some of his books include Missional Moonshots: Insights and Inspiration for Educational Innovation, What Really Matters: Ten Critical Issues in Contemporary Education, and Adventures in Self-Directed Learning. He is passionate about futures in education; leaner agency, educational innovation, and social entrepreneurship in education.