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Cognitive Load Theory: What We Learn and How We Learn

  • John SwellerEmail author
Living reference work entry

Abstract

The information that humans acquire can be divided into two categories. One category, biologically primary knowledge, is largely generic in nature leading to generic cognitive skills. It is critically important, and so we have evolved to acquire such skills without explicit tuition or conscious thought. The other category, biologically secondary knowledge, is largely domain specific, leading to domain-specific concepts and skills. This category consists of cultural knowledge that we are able to acquire but without the specific acquisition mechanisms of primary knowledge. Biologically secondary knowledge is the subject of almost all teaching and learning in educational contexts. Because we have not evolved to specifically acquire this knowledge, it is best acquired with explicit instruction and conscious effort. Cognitive load theory uses evolutionary educational psychology to determine the cognitive processes needed to acquire biologically secondary knowledge and the instructional procedures that, in accord with those cognitive processes, best facilitate learning. This chapter describes the theory and some of the more recent instructional procedures developed using the theory.

Keywords

Cognitive load theory Evolutionary educational psychology Cognitive processes and instructional design 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia

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