Cognitive Load Theory

A handbook for teachers

By: Steve Garnett


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Products specifications
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Size: 148 x 210
Pages : 144
ISBN : 9781785835018
Format: Paperback
Published: September 2020

In Cognitive Load Theory: A handbook for teachers, Steve Garnett brings clarity to the complexity surrounding CLT and provides a user-friendly toolkit of techniques to help teachers optimise their pupils’ learning.

Cognitive load theory (CLT) is rapidly becoming education’s next ‘big thing’.

It is natural, therefore, that teachers will want to know more about it and, more importantly, understand how they can embed it in their classroom teaching.

Written by author and international teacher trainer Steve Garnett, this invaluable handbook offers a complete yet concise summary of what CLT involves and how it can impact on pupil performance.

Steve covers a wide range of teaching strategies to help teachers avoid overloading their pupils’ working memories, and empowers them with the tools to get their pupils learning more effectively – particularly when learning new content.

He talks you through the 14 effects that can ‘clutter’ working memory – for example, the split-attention effect, redundancy effect, and expertise reversal effect – and shares a diverse collection of figures and diagrams as examples of how teachers can optimise their delivery of content to students. Furthermore, he also explores the ‘cognitive architecture’ of the brain and how a better understanding of it can inform and improve teachers’ practice.

Suitable for teachers, department heads, school leaders and anyone with a responsibility for improving teaching and learning.

Picture for author Steve Garnett

Steve Garnett

Steve Garnett delivers inspirational, practical and highly realistic teaching- and learning-related INSET. He travels extensively around the UK, as well as globally, having delivered training to over 15,000 teachers in over 30 countries, extending to South America, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and south-east Asia.


  1. The four sections are full of practical ideas, examples and diagrams which make the information very accessible and easy to absorb. The book is very inspiring and I am sure an ELT teacher will find a lot of inspiration

  2. This book provides a very practical and easy-to-read outline which teachers can read to inform their evolving practice. The cognitive load theory (CLT) effects are clearly presented using a variety of clear diagrams supported with some useful dos and don'ts. The use of teaching points as a framework helps to link suggestions in a useful way for use in the classroom. The book has a clear structure which focuses on a different way in which CLT should inform teaching, as well as the context for this and how ideas have developed over time.
  3. Aimed at busy teachers, this book describes cognitive load theory in simple terms and suggests ways that its principles can be embedded in daily teaching.

    It focuses on John Sweller's idea that the brain has a very specific way of processing the learning of new or novel knowledge. Once a teacher understands how this system works they can improve the quality of teaching a pupil receives. Teachers may need to consider that if they do not understand the system the brain uses to process this new learning, then their quality of teaching could be held back.

    With a wealth of information presented in a compact. accessible format this is a great resource for all those with a responsibility for improving teaching and learning.

    The author covers a wide range of teaching strategies to empower teachers to help pupils learn more effectively.
  4. With the support of Professor John Sweller, Steve Garnett has compiled an excellent text which simplifies the complexity of cognitive load theory (CLT) to make it accessible, practical and ready to be implemented. 

    The author extends knowledge of what can be learned in contrast with what is taught by promoting insight into Sweller's work on developing explicit instruction for domain-specific knowledge. A key aspect of the book is the discussion on not causing overload to working memory, and the explanation of how this is achieved by maximising useful load and minimising irrelevant or surplus load. Teachers and lecturers at all levels will gain from raised awareness of CLT in terms of intrinsic and extraneous load to ensure that the content of learning that the learner needs to process in working memory is appropriate. 

    I particularly gained from the outlines and discussion on the 14 CLT effects and their application in the practical teaching arena. Readers will also benefit from Steve's insights into modality and imagination effects, while the section on recall and understanding also discusses a range of effective techniques - including collaborative learning and the Think-Pair-Share model - to encourage and support learners to demonstrate knowledge and understanding. 

    Cognitive Load Theory is an outstanding book in many ways, and is particularly relevant at this time of upheaval in education.
  5. Teaching is one of the most important activities associated with the continuity of civilisation. An enormous amount of research relevant to teachers is produced each year, with the vast bulk of it appearing in research journals intended for a researcher rather than practitioner readership. Translating those technical research findings into a form that is accessible to teachers is a rare skill. It is a skill that Steve Garnett has in copious abundance, and in Cognitive Load Theory: A Handbook for Teachers he provides a brilliant exposition of instructional design principles. The book has a consistent clarity of purpose and coherence that justifies a prominent place on every teacher's bookshelf. I recommend it in the strongest possible terms.
  6. Cognitive load theory is a hot topic in education at the moment - but, as with so much that gets introduced to teachers, there is a risk of it being misunderstood and then becoming mutated into something it was never meant to be. 

    Steve Garnett's book should ensure that cognitive load theory is fully understood by busy teachers. It brings a great deal of clarity to a complex area of research and shows how it can be applied in the classroom to help teachers make informed decisions about the way they design their lessons.
  7. I think it's safe to say that Steve Garnett's Cognitive Load Theory: A Handbook for Teachers is the book that educators have been waiting for. It is a much-needed, timely resource that puts common sense and cognitive science, rather than hunches and fashions, at the heart of the profession. 

    There are numerous books which now exist which demonstrate how teachers can take back control and strip away the ineffective nonsense, which of course make liberal reference to cognitive load theory. However, this book, dedicated entirely to the idea that working memory is limited, seeks to delve deeper into this theory. Garnett breaks cognitive load theory down into 14 different effects which impact on a range of stages of students' learning. Each of these are explained, using clear, illustrated examples. Crucially, guidance is given that allows the teacher to consider how to adjust his or her lessons in light of these effects in order to maximise students' understanding and learning. 

    With input from cognitive load theory's main proponent, John Sweller, this book is a must-read for any educator seeking to improve their practice in line with the most up-to-date research.

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