Flavia Belham
Chief Scientist @ Seneca Learning
October 08, 2018
The Most Important Thing For Teacher To Know: Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive Load Theory is said to be "the most important thing for teachers to know". It is important, because our Working Memory is limited and can only process so much at one time. Thus, we need to manage its load. But what types of working memory load are there?

Intrinsic Load

The intrinsic load comes from the complexity of the content This load is necessary as it refers to the to-be-learned information. However, too much intrinsic load can harm learning, as it will take over most of our working memory capacity. Example: For an Year 9 pupil, a problem involving quadratic equations has more intrinsic working memory load than a problem involving simple addition.

Extraneous Load

This load comes from the instructions pupils receive. Poorly designed, unclear, ambiguous, incomplete instructions take up space in working memory and do not contribute to learning - they prevent it. Extrinsic load should be kept as low as possible.

Seneca Learning - Cognitive Load Theory

Germane Load

This load comes from the mental processes of thinking and processing information, which ultimately leads to learning. This is “the good type of load” and should be promoted.