Educational Psychology Review

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 265–283 | Cite as

Domain-Specific Knowledge and Why Teaching Generic Skills Does Not Work

  • André TricotEmail author
  • John Sweller
Review Article


Domain-general cognitive knowledge has frequently been used to explain skill when domain-specific knowledge held in long-term memory may provide a better explanation. An emphasis on domain-general knowledge may be misplaced if domain-specific knowledge is the primary factor driving acquired intellectual skills. We trace the long history of attempts to explain human cognition by placing a primary emphasis on domain-general skills with a reduced emphasis on domain-specific knowledge and indicate how otherwise unintelligible data can be easily explained by assumptions concerning the primacy of domain-specific knowledge. That primacy can be explained by aspects of evolutionary educational psychology. Once the importance of domain-specific knowledge is accepted, instructional design theories and processes are transformed.


Domain-specific knowledge Learning Instruction General skills Cognitive load theory 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS and University of ToulouseToulouseFrance
  2. 2.School of EducationUniversity of New-South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.CLLE InstituteCNRS and University of ToulouseToulouseFrance

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