Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 199–245 | Cite as

How do instructional designers manage learners’ cognitive load? An examination of awareness and application of strategies

  • Justin Sentz
  • Jill StefaniakEmail author
  • John Baaki
  • Angela Eckhoff
Development Article


This study examined how practicing instructional designers manage cognitive load in a standardized scenario as they select and implement instructional strategies, message design, content sequencing, delivery medium, and technology within various domains with learners at different levels of expertise. The study employed a quasi-experimental, mixed methods design to gain insight into how practicing instructional designers perceive their awareness of strategies to manage cognitive load and implement those strategies within a standardized design scenario. The results of the study indicated that both novice and expert practitioners frequently used several strategies to manage extraneous load (worked examples, completion tasks, and dual modality) as prescribed by theory, as well as the simple-to-complex presentation strategy to manage intrinsic load. While participants frequently acknowledged differences in the levels of learner expertise within the instructional scenario, few employed strategies prescribed to address the expertise reversal effect as outlined by theory. Based on the results of this study, we present a framework to assist designers with managing for cognitive load in their everyday design practices.


Cognitive load Instructional designers Designer awareness 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Old Dominion University, College of EducationNorfolkUSA
  2. 2.University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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