John Sweller

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John Sweller (born 1946) is an Australian educational psychologist, who is best known for formulating an influential theory of cognitive load.


  • Cognitive load theory has been designed to provide guidelines intended to assist in the presentation of information in a manner that encourages learner activities that optimize intellectual performance. The theory assumes a limited capacity working memory that includes partially independent subcomponents to deal with auditory/verbal material and visual/2- or 3-dimensional information as well as an effectively unlimited long-term memory, holding schemas that vary in their degree of automation. These structures and functions of human cognitive architecture have been used to design a variety of novel instructional procedures based on the assumption that working memory load should be reduced and schema construction encouraged. This paper reviews the theory and the instructional designs generated by it.
    • John Sweller, Jeroen van Merrienboer, and Fred Paas. "Cognitive architecture and instructional design." Educational psychology review 10.3 (1998): 251-296.
  • Human cognition constitutes a natural information processing system that has evolved to mimic the architecture of biological evolution... Both evolution by natural selection and human cognition can be characterised by a series of basic principles. In the case of human cognition, these are:
The information store principle dealing with human long-term memory;
The borrowing and reorganising principle dealing with how we characteristically obtain information from other people;
The randomness as genesis principle dealing with how we create novel information;
The narrow limits of change principle dealing with the role of a limited working memory in processing novel information;
The environmental linking and organising principle that explains how we use organised information held in long-term memory to determine how we interact with our environment.
  • John Sweller, "Evolutionary bases of human cognitive architecture: implications for computing education." Proceedings of the fourth international workshop on computing education research. ACM, 2008.

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