The purpose of this paper is to increase the awareness of accounting instructors, particularly those teaching introductory courses, of an important and relatively new development in cognitive psychology. This development, called cognitive load theory (CLT), both identifies the cognitive constraints of novice learners when learning complex tasks and also provides specific methods for improving learning efficiency. Despite extensive CLT research and its widespread application in the instructional design applications for many other fields, very little discussion has appeared in accounting education literature. This suggests not just an oversight, but also a great opportunity. This paper will present: (1) an overview of CLT and its use, (2) a brief history of recent learning theory and its effect on accounting education and the development of CLT, (3) a discussion of the key elements of CLT and its prescriptive research results for the classroom, and (4) suggestions for how CLT might benefit accounting research.

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