Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 55–66 | Cite as

Toward a Synthesis of Cognitive Load Theory, Four-Component Instructional Design, and Self-Directed Learning

  • Jeroen J. G. van MerriënboerEmail author
  • Dominique M. A. Sluijsmans
Review Article


This article explores the opportunities to apply cognitive load theory and four-component instructional design to self-directed learning. Learning tasks are defined as containing three elements: learners must (a) perform the tasks, (b) assess their task performance, and (c) select future tasks for improving their performance. Principles to manage intrinsic and extraneous load for performing learning tasks, such as simple-to-complex ordering and fading-guidance strategies, are also applicable to assessing performance and selecting tasks. Moreover, principles to increase germane load, such as high variability and self-explanation prompts, are also applicable to assessment and selection. It is concluded that cognitive load theory and four-component instructional design provide a solid basis for a research program on self-directed learning.


Cognitive load theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeroen J. G. van Merriënboer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Dominique M. A. Sluijsmans
    • 2
  1. 1.Netherlands Laboratory for Lifelong Learning (NeLLL)Open University of the NetherlandsHeerlenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies (CELSTEC)Open University of the NetherlandsHeerlenThe Netherlands

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