This practice guide will help teachers explain, demonstrate and model learning content explicitly in ways that manage cognitive load to support students with building foundational knowledge before they practise independently.

Our report on How Students Learn Best shows that learning is optimised through a structured and sequenced approach to explicitly teaching new content. Introducing new information is most effective when teachers break it down and teach it explicitly using explanation, demonstration and modelling, especially when students are new to that learning area.

This practice guide will help you understand ways to:

  • explain, demonstrate and model the content of learning so students can practise and acquire new knowledge and skills
  • minimise the risk of cognitive overload that could interfere with students’ retention of new knowledge and skills
  • support students in drawing on their foundation of knowledge and skills to build a deeper understanding, before undertaking more complex tasks with less guidance.

References and further reading

Further reading

Martin, A. J., & Evans, P. (2018). Load reduction instruction: Exploring a framework that assesses explicit instruction through to independent learning. Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Journal of Research and Studies, 73(1), 203–214.

This paper explains how teachers can help students manage their cognitive load during the initial stages of learning, and then, as fluency and automaticity develop, how students can be encouraged to engage in guided independent learning.

Sweller, J., van Merrienboer, J., & Paas, F. (1998). Cognitive architecture and instructional design. Educational Psychology Review, 10, 251–296.

This seminal literature review provides an overview of cognitive load theory – what it is, how it relates to the human brain, and the implications of cognitive load theory for instructional design.


Archer, A. L., & Hughes, C. A. (2011). Explicit instruction: Effective and efficient teaching. Guilford Press.

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2022). Building a culturally responsive Australian teaching workforce: Final report for Indigenous cultural competency project.

Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. (2017). Cognitive load theory: Research that teachers really need to understand. NSW Department of Education.

Feucht, F. C., Lunn Brownlee, J., & Schraw, G. (2017). Moving beyond reflection: Reflexivity and epistemic cognition in teaching and teacher education. Educational Psychologist, 52(4), 234–241.

Hughes, C. A., Morris, J. R., Therrien, W. J., & Benson, S. K. (2017). Explicit instruction: Historical and contemporary contexts. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 32(3), 140–148.

Rosenshine, B. (2012). Principles of instruction: Research-based strategies that all teachers should know. American Educator, 36(1), 12–19.

Ryan, M., Rowan, L., Lunn Brownlee, J., Bourke, T., L’Estrange, L., Walker, S., & Churchward, P. (2022). Teacher education and teaching for diversity: A call to action. Teaching Education, 33(2), 194–213.

Keywords: explicit teaching