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Cognitive load theory has been very influential in educational psychology during the last decade in providing guidelines for instructional design. Whereas numerous empirical studies have used it as a theoretical framework, a closer analysis reveals some fundamental conceptual problems within the theory. Various generalizations of empirical findings become questionable because the theory allows different and contradicting possibilities to explain some empirical results. The article investigates these theoretical problems by analyzing the conceptual distinctions between different kinds of cognitive load. It emphasizes that reduction of cognitive load can sometimes impair learning rather than enhancing it. Cognitive load theory is reconsidered both from the perspective of Vygotski’s concept of the zone of proximal development and from the perspective of research on implicit learning. Task performance and learning are considered as related, but nevertheless fundamentally different processes. Conclusions are drawn for the further development of the theory as well as for empirical research and instructional practice.
Educational Psychology Review – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 19, 2007
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