Cognitive load theory as an aid for instructional design


  • Graham Cooper



This paper attempts to draw together several recent findings in educational psychology that have led to the development and application of cognitive load theory to the format of instruction (Chandler and Sweller, unpublished manuscript; Sweller, 1988). These findings are directly related to the processes involved in learning, and will ultimately affect the way instructional design is approached.

Cognitive load may be viewed as the level of 'mental energy' required to process a given amount of information. As the amount of information to be processed increases, so too does the associated cognitive load. Cognitive load theory suggests that effective instructional material promotes learning by directing cognitive resources towards activities that are relevant to learning rather than to processes that are an adjunct to learning.

Cognitive load theory grew out of research investigating the differences between experts and novices. This research will be discussed briefly before returning to the issue of cognitive load theory.


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How to Cite

Cooper, G. (1990). Cognitive load theory as an aid for instructional design. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 6(2).