A Conversation with John Sweller

In mid 2017 I met with John Sweller to ask him a few questions that I had about Cognitive Load Theory, and his work more broadly. John was gracious enough to let me record our conversation and turn it into the following series of blog posts. All together, these posts amount to almost 9000 words of text, so I have broken our discussion into nine different sub-posts for the convenience of readers. That said, as these are a transcript of a conversation, each section flows on logically from, and often references, previous sections.

  1. Worked Examples – What’s the role of students recording their thinking?
  2. Can we teach problem solving?
  3. What’s the difference between the goal-free effect and minimally guided instruction?
  4. Biologically primary and biologically secondary knowledge
  5. Motivation, what’s CLT got to do with it?
  6. Productive Failure – Kapur (What does Sweller think about it?)
  7. How do we measure cognitive load?
  8. Can we teach collaboration?
  9. CLT – misconceptions and future directions

Note: If you’re not already familiar with the terms ‘cognitive load theory’, ‘the worked example effect’, or biologically primary and secondary knowledge’, it might be a good idea to start by reading Sweller’s fantastic overview entitled Story of a Research Program, available here.

A big thank you to Bryn Humberstone for his help and suggestions during the editing of this series. Also thank you to Rajiv Bhar and Michael Pershan for contributing questions for use in this interview with Sweller.