The research that shaped me: cognitive load theory


As a new teacher, Adam Riches often overloaded his students with information that they struggled to take in. But thanks to the work of John Sweller, he has learned to strip back his lessons to the essentials

How cognitive load shaped me

Cognitive load theory has fundamentally changed my teaching. You can neatly separate how I taught before and after reading the work of Professor John Sweller, and I have no doubt that the “after” me is the better educator.

Cognitive load theory (CLT) is based on the idea that our working memory can deal with only a limited amount of information at one time. Sweller refers to it as the “load” on working memory being too high, too low or just right. The theory identifies three different types of cognitive load:

  • Intrinsic cognitive load – the inherent difficulty of the material (which can be ...

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