Does cognitive load theory deserve its cult following?

Cognitive load theory has been cited by Ofsted and the Department for Education, and is hailed as ‘the single most important thing teachers should know’ – but does it actually translate to the classroom in a way that benefits teachers and pupils? Teacher Alistair McConville investigated, and found that education’s love-in with CLT needs urgent reassessment

Does CLT really work?

Cognitive load theory (CLT) took its time in becoming, in Professor Dylan Wiliam’s words, the “single most important thing for teachers to know”. Focused on working-memory capacity and how we learn, and originating from the work of Professor John Sweller, the theory emerged in the 1980s but tumbled quietly around academic circles for decades, with few schools beyond those involved in field trials getting even a glimpse of it.

Then, around five years ago, education began its very own reformation. No longer were the old idioms taken for granted. New authorities took centre stage to rescue the ...

Subscribe to continue reading

Get full access to our magazine to keep up-to-date with the latest education research, insight and analysis – including audio articles and back issues

Other articles in this issue