Sydney School of Education and Social Work events – 2015 Archive

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Cognitive load theory

9 September 2015

A Research on Learning and Education Innovation seminar with Professor John Sweller.

Cognitive load theory uses our knowledge of human cognition to devise instructional procedures. The following aspects of human cognition are critical to instructional design.

  • First, based on evolutionary educational psychology, cognitive load theory assumes that most topics taught in educational and training institutions are ones that we have not specifically evolved to learn.

  • Second, these instructionally relevant topics require learners to acquire domain-specific, rather than generic, cognitive knowledge.

  • Third, while generic cognitive knowledge does not require explicit instruction because we have evolved to acquire it, domain-specific concepts and skills that provide the content of educational syllabi, do require explicit instruction.

These three factors interact with the well-known capacity and duration constraints of working memory to delineate a cognitive architecture relevant to instructional design.

Because the ability to learn biologically secondary, explicitly taught, domain-specific skills is limited by the capacity of a person's working memory, cognitive load theory has been developed to provide techniques that reduce unnecessary working memory load when teaching these types of skill.

This seminar will not be available online or recorded.

Event details

  • When: 11am–12.30pm

  • Where: Room 612, Education Building A35

  • Cost: Free

  • Contact: Sadhbh Warren
    T: +61 9351 2612

  • More info: Arrive at 10.45am for refreshments

  • Speaker: Dr John Sweller is Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology in the School of Education, University of New South Wales (UNSW). His research reputation is associated with cognitive load theory, an instructional theory based on our knowledge of human cognitive architecture. Professor Sweller initiated work on the theory in the early 1980s. Subsequently, “ownership” of the theory shifted to his research group at UNSW and then to a large group of international researchers. The theory is now a contributor to both research and debate on issues associated with human cognitive architecture, its links to evolution by natural selection, and the instructional design consequences that follow. It is one of the few theories to have generated a large range of novel instructional design effects based on human cognitive architecture. These include: goal-free; worked-example; split-attention; isolated-interacting elements; and collective working-memory effects. His work has been cited 10,000–20,000 times.

Cognitive load theory

Where Room 612, Education Building A35


9 September 2015

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