Here is a nice overview of cognitive load theory – the only downside is due to some ads, but that’s
YouTube for you.


Everyone is susceptible to cognitive overload, but overload increases with stress (pandemic anyone?), younger age, and dyslexia. Some people have small working memory capacities which may make them more prone to cognitive overload.

As a group, dyslexics tend to be more susceptible to cognitive overload, meaning that they are more dependent on how information is taught.



If you’re dyslexic yourself, it’s good to periodically do a productivity check. If you’re a college student, chances are you already know what it means to have memory overload. Students can prepare for tough subjects by reviewing in advance (finding a relevant video on YouTube), looking over the chapter summary, or talking over the subject in advance with a student center tutor. By checking out, you may be able to find a teacher whose style of teaching fits well with you or at least anticipate a bad one if there are no alternatives (and adjust your course schedule accordingly).

If you are a teacher or tutor, a lot can be done to reduce the cognitive overload of your students. Of the points above, I especially like: frontload vocabulary, minimize noise, highlight key words, use worked examples, introduce new content with video, deliver it slow and chop it down, and tell a story. Applying the modality effect (for instance, presenting a picture, then describing it in words) helps to reinforce both picture and verbal knowledge while also covering the bases for those who prefer pictures or those who prefer words.




If you’re a good observer of yourself and others, you will probably know when cognitive overload is happening – you feel overwhelmed and lost in the context of information that is being presented.

Recognition is the first step, then problem solve how to make instruction or learning more efficient. A few more ideas…

Though designed for English Language Learners, this infographic has a good list of scaffolding practices. (Reference)


Concept maps can often help cognitive load for learning because it distills information down to its essentials and includes both pictures and words. Students can also walk through the material and later recall the information spatially and as an experience.


Every subject has its tricky areas where scaffolding and breaking down into more simple parts can help.

Miss DHT addresses strategies to reduce cognitive load in the teaching of reading HERE.

David Petersen talks about how he decreases cognitive load when teaching chemistry. Besides presenting students with fully worked examples, he also shares examples of modeling thinking and notes how it’s important to scaffold math steps.

Tom Needham talks about how he scaffolds writing with incremental use of labeled examples, then assignments where students have to label, then finally, sentence writing.



Dyslexia | Dyslexic Advantage