The segmentation principle works by breaking information down into manageable segments. There are times when learners must engage in so much essential processing that their cognitive systems are overwhelmed (Clark & Mayer, 2011).

When the material is complex it will not work to leave out some elements or steps in the explanation, this would take away from the accuracy of the lesson. By using segmentation principle and breaking the lesson into manageable segments

the cognitive process does not become overwhelmed. “In short, when an unfamiliar learner receives a continuous presentation containing a lot of interrelated concepts, the

likely result is that the cognitive system becomes overloaded” Clark & Mayer, 2011, p. 210). Using the segmentation principle allows the learner to engage essential processing without overloading the cognitive system. (Jackie Smith)


“A good way to gauge the complexity of a lesson is to tally the

Segmentation Principle

number of elements (or concepts) and the number of interactions

among them” (Clark & Mayer, 2011, p. 207).

Clark & Mayer (2011) give the following example:

How a bicycle tire pump works that has the script: “When the handle is pulled up, the piston moves up, the inlet valve opens, and the outlet valve closes, and the air enters the cylinder. When the handle is pushed down, the piston moves down, the piston moves down, the inlet valve closes, the outlet valve opens, and air exits form the cylinder though the hose.” (Jackie Smith)

This is a simple lesson that requires two segments - one showing what happens when the handle is pulled up and one showing when the handle is pushed down. (Jackie Smith)

According to Mayer and Clark (2011), “When the material is complex, you can’t make it simpler by leaving out some of the elements or steps in the explanation—because that would destroy the accuracy of the lesson” (p. 209).  Applying the segmentation principle supports the effectiveness of the learning process, therefore increasing understanding of the material and long-term retention.  (Laura)

The segmentation principle is arguably the most important instruction technique educators and trainers can apply to any lesson or learning environment.  This principle advocates breaking a large or complex lesson into small manageable bite sized units to help reduce student cognitive overload (Clark & Mayer, 2011, Chapter 10). Furthermore, the segmentation principle promotes deeper learning through logical step-by-step pedagogical methods.  One uses the segmentation principal during the synchronous chess tutorials in the Edmodo virtual classroom and face-to-face reinforcement lessons.  One of the 16 lessons covers 15 different chess tactical motifs players must master to increase playing strength. Attempting to cover all 15 motifs simultaneously would undoubtedly cause cognitive overload and model poor teaching techniques.  The lesson covers 3 tactical motifs at a time, continuously building off each motif.  However, all 15 tactical motifs are covered simultaneously in an end of course performance assessment.  Students that patiently learned the tactical motifs sequentially in small manageable bite sizes did much better on the end of course assessment as compared to the students that were impatient and tackled all 15 motifs simultaneously.  Last, the segmentation principle is simply a good teaching technique with proven results. (Luis Gonzalez)     

Students are more likely to absorb information that has been broken down into a logical sequence of concepts. Using the segmentation principle students are given time to learn concepts one at a time preventing cognitive overload. Students recieve greater understanding because since the concepts are in a logical progression they are able to see how one concept builds from another. (Proctor

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