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Cognitive Load Theory: How Many Types of Load Does It Really Need?

Abstract

Cognitive load theory has been traditionally described as involving three separate and additive types of load. Germane load is considered as a learning-relevant load complementing extraneous and intrinsic load. This article argues that, in its traditional treatment, germane load is essentially indistinguishable from intrinsic load, and therefore this concept may be redundant. Contrary to extraneous and intrinsic load, germane cognitive load was added to the cognitive load framework based on theoretical considerations rather than on specific empirical results that could not be explained without this concept. The design of corresponding learning activities always required methods and techniques external to the theory. The article suggests that the dual intrinsic/extraneous framework is sufficient and non-redundant and makes boundaries of the theory transparent. The idea of germane load might have an independent role within this framework if (as recently suggested by John Sweller) it is redefined as referring to the actual working memory resources devoted to dealing with intrinsic rather than extraneous load.

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Correspondence to Slava Kalyuga.

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Kalyuga, S. Cognitive Load Theory: How Many Types of Load Does It Really Need?. Educ Psychol Rev 23, 1–19 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-010-9150-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-010-9150-7

Keywords

  • Cognitive load theory
  • Germane load
  • Intrinsic load
  • Working memory load