Cognitive Load Theory
Knowledge about our memory functions has given rise
to a theory of learning called Cognitive Load Theory. This theory
is built on a number of fundamental theses, and on this basis it is
possible to increase the efficiency of the learning process by sidestepping
the limitations of the working memory in a number of ways.
The fundamental theses of this theory are as follows.
- There is a fundamental limitation to the working
memory, which acts as a bottleneck in the learning process.
- If the capacity of the working memory is exceeded,
a part of or all the information will be lost.
- In learning situations, the cognitive load must
be limited for the learning process to run effectively.
- All information must pass through the working
memory and be processed consciously before it reaches the long-term
In order to bypass this limitation and thus to
increase the efficiency of the learning process it is possible to reduce
the load on the working memory, for example by:
- using different aids (pens, paper, computers)
- dividing the information into smaller units (chunking)
- combining sounds and images, as these are processed
separately. However, in this case it is very important to ensure that
the sounds and images complement each other so that they do not cause
Which stages and phases do we pass though when acquiring
- The cognitive stagelearning. We learn how
to perform a new action, such as shifting gears when driving a car.
- The associative stagetraining. We practice
and become better at carrying out the action; our tables become more
and more comprehensive.
- The autonomous stageautomation. We have
reached a stage in which we carry out the action more or less unconsciously.
In this case, expertise means that a person has
built up an extensive table with regard to a particular area and can
carry out certain actions with a high degree of automation. Novices
require a much higher level of conscious attention in all phases of
the process, which means that novices will act more slowly and be more
prone to making mistakes.