What is Cognitive Load?

Learn how to create effective and efficient lesson plans that make learning less of a struggle for students by keeping it simple, breaking it down, using visuals and more.

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Cognitive load is a term that refers to how much mental effort your brain has to use to understand and remember something. Imagine your brain is like a backpack. When it's empty, you can put many things in it without any problem. But when it's complete, you can't fit anything else in. That's like what happens with cognitive load.

cognitive load

What does Cognitive Load mean for learning and teaching strategies in the classroom?

Cognitive load is essential to think about when it comes to learning and teaching strategies in the classroom. If a teacher uses methods that create a high cognitive load, it can be more challenging for students to understand and remember the material. This can make it harder for them to do well in class and on tests.

So, if you're a student, it's essential to know how much mental effort you have to put in to understand something in class. Let your teacher know if you need help to keep up or understand. They can explain things differently, making it easier for you.

If you're a teacher, it's essential to think about how to make the material easy to understand and remember for your students. This can include breaking down complicated information into smaller pieces, using pictures or diagrams to help explain things, and connecting the material to things your students already know. These are all ways to lower the cognitive load and make learning easier for your students.

How does Cognitive Load help students learn effectively and efficiently?

Cognitive load can help students learn effectively and efficiently by ensuring their brains aren't working too hard. When the information is simple and easy to understand, it's easier for students to take it in and remember it. This means they can learn more quickly and are less likely to get confused or forget what they've learned.

When a teacher presents information in a way that makes it easy to understand, it can help students to focus on the most critical parts of the material and not get bogged down by unnecessary information. This makes it easier for them to learn and remember what they've learned.

Providing opportunities for active engagement, such as note-taking, flashcard creation, or peer discussion. This allows students to organize and make connections between new and existing knowledge, making the learning experience more effective. Moreover, this can make the material more meaningful and memorable, which can help them to learn effectively and efficiently.

Consider cognitive load when teaching and learning to improve students' understanding and retention of information, making the learning experience more effective and efficient.

Fundamental principles of Cognitive Load

Educators should consider some fundamental principles of cognitive load when designing instructional materials and lesson plans for their students. These include:

  • Keep it simple: Make sure that the information is presented in a simple and easy-to-understand way so that students don't have to work too hard to understand it.
  • Break it down: Break complicated information into smaller pieces so students can take it in more easily.
  • Use visuals: Use pictures, diagrams, and other visual aids to help explain the material and make it easier to understand.
  • Connect to what they know: Make the material more meaningful and memorable by connecting it to what students already know. This can help students understand and retain the information better.
  • Provide opportunities for active engagement: Encourage active engagement with the material through discussions, hands-on activities, and student-created materials like flashcards, mind maps, etc. This will help students understand and retain the information better.
  • Use examples and scenarios: Provide examples and scenarios to help students understand how the information applies to real-life situations.


Cognitive load is when your brain has to use a lot of effort to understand and remember something. Teachers should consider breaking down information into smaller pieces and using pictures to make learning easy for students. This can help make the information more accessible and easier to understand.

When the cognitive load is low, it's easier for students to learn and remember things. Using cognitive load theory in the classroom can lead to better learning outcomes and make the classroom more positive and productive for everyone.

Teachers should keep lesson plans simple, break down complex information, use visuals, connect new material to what students already know, and provide opportunities for active engagement. These are fundamental principles that can help create effective lesson plans.

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