Development of an instrument for measuring different types of cognitive load

Jimmie Leppink*, Fred Paas, Cees P. M. Van der Vleuten, Tamara Van Gog, Jeroen J. G. Van Merrinboer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

327 Citations (Web of Science)


According to cognitive load theory, instructions can impose three types of cognitive load on the learner: intrinsic load, extraneous load, and germane load. Proper measurement of the different types of cognitive load can help us understand why the effectiveness and efficiency of learning environments may differ as a function of instructional formats and learner characteristics. In this article, we present a ten-item instrument for the measurement of the three types of cognitive load. Principal component analysis on data from a lecture in statistics for PhD students (n = 56) in psychology and health sciences revealed a three-component solution, consistent with the types of load that the different items were intended to measure. This solution was confirmed by a confirmatory factor analysis of data from three lectures in statistics for different cohorts of bachelor students in the social and health sciences (ns = 171, 136, and 148), and received further support from a randomized experiment with university freshmen in the health sciences (n = 58).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1058-1072
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


  • Cognitive load
  • Intrinsic load
  • Extraneous load
  • Germane load
  • Subjective rating scales

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