A few years ago, I decided that I was tired of not understanding Cognitive Load Theory. I set out to read and understand the research for myself. While reading old papers, I realized that there was a story about CLT that fascinated me. It was about the development of the theory across time, the challenges of performing science about teaching, and it was spread across many different papers. I decided to write an essay to tell this story, and (along the way) to introduce Cognitive Load Theory to others in education.

I hope you read it (in part or the whole thing) and let me know what you think. I’m seriously eager to know what you think I get right, and what you think I don’t. (I’m an amateur here — I’m sure I got some things wrong!)

This essay doesn’t say much about how I use CLT in my teaching. (I have a different story to tell here.) For thoughts on how I take the ideas from this essay and apply them to my teaching you’ll have to check out my teaching blog. Some posts that capture my CLT applications are this and this. Of course, like everything in my teaching, those posts are provisional. Who knows what I’ll be doing in the classroom a few years from now?

There have been critiques of my writing, especially that I overemphasize goal-free examples and that I focus on trivialities. There’s some truth in these critiques, but you’ll want to read the whole thing to see if you agree!

Here are some people who said nice things about my CLT writing: