Content chunking is the act of breaking down content into smaller, manageable segments. It does not involve reducing the information to be learned; rather, it requires organizing it around key themes, so that students can learn, practice, apply, and assess their progress efficiently and effectively.
The concept of chunking emerged from the cognitive psychiatry literature, which originally suggested that the human working memory can remember approximately seven bits of information at a time. More recent research has reduced that number to four or five bits of information, either because research methodologies have improved, or attention spans have shortened over time.
There is no one correct way to chunk content to make it memorable. Your learning architect can help you choose an approach that is consistent with your course narratives and instructional approaches. One common strategy involves chunking course topics into module topics before dividing module topics into learning activities.
Take your platform into account
It is important to remember that chunking for face-to-face learning experiences is not the same as chunking for online content or courses. For example, using mobile devices may improve accessibility for some students, but unless the content or course is designed appropriately, it will increase the cognitive load required to navigate the course. Chunk for the topic but also for the learning platforms and tools being used in the course.
One common approach to chunking information is “a simple knowledge” (ASK) approach in which instructors ask themselves a series of questions to help guide the division of themes (course level), subthemes (module level), and key segments (activity level). The following resource describes the steps of this approach:
- University of Central Florida: Chunking
- The Learning Coach: Chunking information for instructional design