Instructional Science

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 33–58

Designing Instructional Examples to Reduce Intrinsic Cognitive Load: Molar versus Modular Presentation of Solution Procedures

  • Peter Gerjets
  • Katharina Scheiter
  • Richard Catrambone

DOI: 10.1023/B:TRUC.0000021809.10236.71

Cite this article as:
Gerjets, P., Scheiter, K. & Catrambone, R. Instructional Science (2004) 32: 33. doi:10.1023/B:TRUC.0000021809.10236.71


It is usually assumed that successful problemsolving in knowledge-rich domains depends onthe availability of abstract problem-typeschemas whose acquisition can be supported bypresenting students with worked examples.Conventionally designed worked examples oftenfocus on information that is related to themain components of problem-type schemas, namelyon information related to problem-categorymembership, structural task features, andcategory-specific solution procedures. However,studying these examples might be cognitivelydemanding because it requires learners tosimultaneously hold active a substantial amountof information in working memory. In ourresearch, we try to reduce intrinsic cognitiveload in example-based learning by shifting thelevel of presenting and explaining solutionprocedures from a `molar' view – that focuseson problem categories and their associatedoverall solution procedures – to a more`modular' view where complex solutions arebroken down into smaller meaningful solutionelements that can be conveyed separately. Wereview findings from five of our own studiesthat yield evidence for the fact thatprocessing modular examples is associated witha lower degree of intrinsic cognitive load andthus, improves learning.

cognitive loadcognitive skill acquisitionexample designschema acquisitionworked examples

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Gerjets
    • 1
  • Katharina Scheiter
    • 2
  • Richard Catrambone
    • 3
  1. 1.Knowledge Media Research CenterTuebingenGermany
  2. 2.University of TuebingenTuebingenGermany
  3. 3.Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA