Assimilating complex information



Publication Details

Pollock, E., Chandler, P. A. & Sweller, J. (2002). Assimilating complex information. Learning and Instruction, 12 (1), 61-86.


Methods of instruction which are intended to facilitate understanding tend to incorporate all the information elements required for understanding in the instructions. Frequently, these types of instructions may overwhelm a learner's limited working memory and hinder learning. In four experiments, a two-phase, isolated-interacting elements learning approach was developed in which in the first phase, the element interactivity of complex material was artificially reduced by presenting the material as isolated elements of information that could be processed serially, rather than simultaneously, in working memory. In the second phase, all the information for understanding was presented. The control group was simply presented with all the information for understanding in both Phases 1 and 2. The results provided powerful evidence that for certain groups of learners, information is better learnt through the isolated-interacting elements instructional method.