Instructional control of cognitive load in the design of complex learning environments

Liesbeth Kester, Fred Paas, Jeroen J.G. van Merriënboer

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    Instructional design theories focus more and more on authentic learning tasks that are based on complex real-life experiences as the driving force for learning. The general assumption of these theories is that providing learners with authentic ‘whole’ tasks helps them to integrate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for effective task performance, gives them the opportunity to learn to coordinate qualitatively different constituent skills that make up this performance, and eventually enables them to transfer what is learned to their daily life or work settings. However, these complex tasks pose such a high load on the learner’s cognitive system, that it may interfere with efficient learning if the instructional design is not properly aligned with the cognitive architecture. This chapter uses a cognitive load theory oriented perspective to describe the implications of focusing on complex tasks in instructional design for chosing effective instructional methods. First, the importance of inducing germane load for fostering transfer is outlined. Second, instructional methods that aim at balancing the intrinsic and germane load during complex learning are discussed. Finally, the implications of these methods for instructional design theories are clarified on the basis of three instructional design models that aim at complex learning.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCognitive Load Theory
    EditorsJan L. Plass, Roxana Moreno, Roland Brünken
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages22
    ISBN (Electronic)9780511844744
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • Veni lke
    • Cognitive load theory
    • Instructional design
    • Complex learning environments


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