Cognitive load theory is perhaps the most important consideration a teacher needs to have in their minds when developing and delivering a sequence of learning. Pioneered by John Sweller, it implores teachers to consider the functioning of the brain in terms of working memory, and particularly its capacity and limitations.

When introducing new material to a student, the teacher should consider how much strain is being applied to the working memory, because if it is too much, learning won’t happen. The theory also has large implications for the sequence of curriculum, with incremental building and a progression model of curriculum likely to be a better option so students can continuoulsy build cognitive schemas that can be applied to new information presented to them. Without the schemas, working memory can easily be overworked, and become incapacitated.

The model therefore becomes inextricably linked to memory and the imperative of helping students retain information that can then move into the long term memory, and can be drawn on when new information requires previous knowledge to assist in its understanding.

The paper can be found here.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me @edmerger and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.


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