Best Practice

Cognitive load theory in the primary classroom

What is cognitive load theory and how can it help teachers in the classroom and with their pedagogy? Steve Garnett, author of a new teacher’s handbook on cognitive load theory, offers some practical pointers

One of the biggest challenges facing education researchers has been how to translate their research findings into a form that allows busy classroom teachers to apply them into their day-to-day teaching.

Well, this is what I have tried to do in my new book, Cognitive Load Theory: A handbook for teachers. Below I run through some key takeaways for the primary school teacher looking to embed some of the principles of cognitive load theory (CLT).

First put forward by educational psychologist John Sweller, CLT is based on the premise that our “working memory” can only deal with a limited amount of information at any one time and that overworking this can cause “cognitive overload”. To frame the principles below, it is useful to see CLT through three different “lenses” – the pupil, the task, and the resources used.

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