Chunking Information

Decorative: "Chunking Strategy: Chunk 1 Chunk 2 Chunk 3"


A. "Chunking Information" (post) "refers to an approach for making more efficient use of short-term memory by grouping information."

  • "Chunking ... groups content into small, manageable units."
  • This "make[s] the information easier to process ... [by] reduce[ing] the cognitive load."
  • "Good chunking facilitates comprehension and retrieval of information."

1. "Chunking Strategy"

  • "[B]reak long strips of information into bit[e]-size[d] chunks that are easier to remember."
  • Use it "to organize or classify large amounts of information, even when there are no obvious patterns."

2. Simple Chunking Examples

  • Phone numbers, dates, strings of random letters
  • Lists (by categories)
  • Processes (by stages)

B. "Chunking Information for Instructional Design" (post)

1. "Why We Chunk Content"

  • "[W]orking memory is limited in capacity."
  • "[I]f a learner’s working memory is full, the excess information will just drop out—as in disappear."
  • "[I]f you are explaining something complex and the learner must hold several factors in mind to understand it, you’ll need to chunk information into bite-sized pieces."

2. "Chunking Information for eLearning"

  • "Without an instructor to answer questions and to guide the learning process, eLearning content has to be organized in a logical and progressive way through chunking."
  • "Chunking doesn’t only work for your typical linear instruction."
  • "[I]t also works for learning objects, for non-linear approaches to learning as well as discovery learning, because it groups together conceptually related information."
  • "Content that is conceptually related is meaningful, making it easier to understand."

3. "Four Steps to Chunking Information"

a. "Start at the highest level."

  • "Use a chunking strategy while determining the content hierarchy of a course."
  • "Determine how modules, lesson, and topics will be organized into a logical and progressive order."
  • "Start with large chunks of conceptually related content, and use these as your modules."
  • "There are numerous organizational strategies, such as simple to complex, cause and effect, sequential, etc."

b. Follow the "Modules into lessons into topics" pattern.

  • "Divide modules into smaller related chunks, and these will become your lessons."
  • "Continue with this process until content is broken down to the topic level."
  • "As you become more familiar with the content, fine tune the internal structure."
  • Individual activities, lesson points, introductions, reviews, etc. etc. may best use a microlearning strategy. 

c. "Chunk at the screen level."

  • "[O]rganize the content so each screen consists of one chunk of related information."
  • "[T]his could be at the topic level, at the detailed learning objective level, or at the concept level."
  • "[A]void introducing multiple topics, learning objectives or concepts at one time."

d. "Do a working memory check."

  • "Throughout the process, think in terms of working memory."
  • "Do you really need to include all the content you have in front of you? If not, get rid of extraneous content. Less is more."
  • "Will the chunk of content require the learner to hold more than a few things in memory at one time in order to understand it? If so, break it down again."
  • "[T]he visuals and text in multimedia courses can lessen the demands on working memory."

4. Handling Unrelated Information: "Turn Bits into Chunks."

a. Consider Relevance & Necessity

"If you have lots of unrelated facts, ... this [may be] extraneous content and you don’t need it."

  • "If you are certain these unrelated facts need to be included, find some way that they relate to each other and connect them."

b. Connect Necessary Content Meaningfully

Try "chunk[ing] information in the opposite direction."

  • "Use any strategy that turns individual bits of information into meaningful chunks."
  • "Perhaps an analogy or metaphor will work."

c. Privilege Chunks over Bits

"Working memory is just as willing to hold four chunks of information as it is to hold four bits of information. "

  • "[Y]ou can remember four letters as well as four words."
  • "By finding ways to group together small bits of information into a chunk and you’ll help learners process more at one time."
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