Book Chapter Review

Chapter 10: Applying the Segmenting and Pretraining Principles: Managing Complexity by Breaking a Lesson into Parts

This chapter explores two principles, segmenting and pretraining, provides psychological reasons and evidence for each principle, and concludes with what is unknown about segmenting and pretraining. Segmenting is when a continuous lesson is broken down into smaller segments. If a lesson has a large number of concepts that interact with each other, segmenting can help simplify the material so it does not overload the learner. Multiple studies have demonstrated that learners who received segmented instruction performed better than those who received continuous instruction. Pretraining ensures learning comprehension regarding key concepts, including names and characteristics. Like the segmenting principle, pretraining can help prevent cognitive overload when learning complex material. Pretraining allows the initial processing of key terms to be done prior to the start of the main lesson. Several experiments have shown pretraining groups outperforming groups without pretraining in e-learning and multimedia environments. Further research on segmenting and pretraining could yield optimal sizes of segments, where and when to divide a continuous lesson, how extensive pretraining should be, and in what situations should key concepts be taught within the context of a lesson.

When cognitive processing is overloaded, learners are unable to fully engage with and understand the material at hand. However, these two techniques help learners to manage essential cognitive processing by dividing or redistributing the cognitive load. While I previously understood the dilemma of exceeding a learner’s cognitive limits, this chapter provided the appropriate terminology and techniques, as well as, specific applications in distance education and instructional design. Now knowing these strategies and how effective they can be, I can more mindfully and intentionally utilize them to simplify and organize the delivery of complex information. This is relevant to our ISD project design. Understanding that some of the terms and practices in our project may be unfamiliar or complicated for the intended learners, we plan to introduce key terms at the beginning of the module, then break down the rest of the content into digestible parts with simple steps. In any situation where I am explaining or teaching a topic or skill, to a student or peer, I can implement segmenting and pretraining to more effectively communicate the information. By being aware of the complexity of the content, as well as the learner’s prior knowledge, I can instruct or inform them in a manner that will not confuse and overwhelm them.


Clark, R. C. and Mayer, R. E. (2016). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (4th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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