Respect the limits of working memory

Working memory is where the brain temporarily holds the information needed for the task currently being worked on. Unlike long-term memory, its capacity is limited to about four chunks of information. The brain can only process a certain amount of information at a time, and overloading it results in too great a cognitive load theory, which impairs the ability to learn.

We can reduce extraneous cognitive load by:

  • Letting the learner control the pace of flow of new information;
  • Providing worked examples;
  • Using cues such as bolding to highlight key information;
  • Making sure you avoid ‘seductive details‘ in learning – elements that are interesting or fun, but not directly relevant to the learning task at hand.