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Table 1 Timeline of major cognitive load effects before and after 1998

From: Cognitive Architecture and Instructional Design: 20 Years Later

Effect   First publication naming the effect Description
Goal-free effect 1982 Sweller and Levine (1982). Effects of goal specificity on means-ends analysis and learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 8, 463–474. Replace conventional tasks with goal-free tasks that provide learners with a non-specific goal.
Worked example effect 1985 Sweller and Cooper (1985). The use of worked examples as a substitute for problem solving in learning algebra. Cognition and Instruction, 2, 59–89. Replace conventional tasks with worked examples that provide learners with a solution they must carefully study.
Completion problem effect 1987 van Merriënboer and Krammer (1987). Instructional strategies and tactics for the design of introductory computer programming courses in high school. Instructional Science, 16, 251–285. Replace conventional tasks with completion tasks that provide learners with a partial solution they must complete.
Split-attention effect 1988 Tarmizi and Sweller (1988). Guidance during mathematical problem solving. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 424–436. Replace multiple sources of information, distributed either in space (spatial split attention) or time (temporal split attention), with one integrated source of information.
Redundancy effect 1991 Chandler and Sweller (1991). Cognitive load theory and the format of instruction. Cognition and Instruction, 8, 293–332. Replace multiple sources of information that are self-contained (i.e. they can be understood on their own) with one source of information.
Compound Element interactivity effect 1994 Sweller (1994). Cognitive load theory, learning difficulty and instructional design. Learning and Instruction, 4, 295–312. Cognitive load effects that are found for high element interactivity materials are typically not found for low element interactivity materials. Actually, cognitive load theory is only relevant for complex learning.
Variability effect 1994 Paas and van Merriënboer (1994a). Variability of worked examples and transfer of geometrical problem solving skills: a cognitive load approach. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 122–133. Replace a series of tasks with similar surface features with a series of tasks that differ from one another on all dimensions on which tasks differ in the real world.
Modality effect 1995 Mousavi et al. (1995). Reducing cognitive load by mixing auditory and visual presentation modes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 87, 319–334. Replace a written explanatory text and another source of visual information (unimodal) with a spoken explanatory text and the visual source of information (multimodal).
Publication of the 1998 article cognitive architecture and instructional design
Self-explanation effect 1998 Renkl et al. (1998). Learning from worked-out examples: the effects of example variability and elicited self-explanations. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 32, 90–108. Replace separate worked examples or completion tasks with enriched ones containing prompts, asking learners to self-explain the given information.
Imagination effect 2001 Cooper et al. (2001). Learning by imagining. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 7, 68–82. Replace conventional study of a procedure or concept to learn with imagination, where the learner is asked to imagine or mentally practice the concept or procedure.
Isolated elements effect 2002 Pollock et al. (2002). Assimilating complex information. Learning and Instruction, 12, 61–86. Replace a presentation of information/tasks with all interacting elements at once by initially presenting elements of information sequentially in an isolated form rather than in a fully interactive form.
Compound Expertise reversal effect 2003 Kalyuga et al. (2003). The expertise reversal effect, Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 23–31. Cognitive load effects that are found for low expertise learners (e.g. worked example effect, goal free effect) are typically not found or even reversed for high expertise learners.
Compound Guidance-fading effect 2003 Renkl and Atkinson (2003). Structuring the transition from example study to problem solving in cognitive skill acquisition: a cognitive load perspective. Educational Psychologist, 38, 15–22. Cognitive load effects that are relevant in the beginning of a longer educational program (e.g. guided problem-solving, worked examples) are no longer relevant in later stages of the program, after the learners acquired sufficient expertise.
Collective working memory effect 2009 Kirschner et al. (2009). A cognitive load approach to collaborative learning: united brains for complex tasks. Educational Psychology Review, 21, 31–42. Replace individual learning tasks with collaborative tasks so that more cognitive resources become available.
Compound Transient information effect 2011 Leahy and Sweller (2011). Cognitive load theory, modality of presentation and the transient information effect. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25, 943–951. Cognitive load effects that are found for transient information (e.g. self-pacing effect, segmentation effect, modality effect) are typically not found for non-transient or less transient information.
Human movement effect 2012 Paas and Sweller (2012). An evolutionary upgrade of cognitive load theory: using the human motor system and collaboration to support the learning of complex cognitive tasks. Educational Psychology Review, 4, 27–45. Replace static or unrealistic visualisations with visualisations showing human movements.
Compound Self-management effect 2012 Roodenrys et al. (2012). Managing one’s own cognitive load when evidence of split attention is present, Applied Cognitive Psychology, 26, 878–886. Cognitive load effects that are found for ill-designed instructional materials (e.g. split attention) are not found when learners are explicitly taught how to reduce the associated extraneous load.