Chunking is a technique to help remember information (Butler, Holden and Lidwell, 2003, p. 46). According to Malamed (2011) “When multiple elements of information are chunked as single elements, there is more working memory capacity available for solving problems and processing information”. In simple terms, chunking is when information is grouped or divided, making it more likely for the brain to remember it at a later time. Chunking is considered an effective instructional and educational technique, however it also occurs in everyday life without people paying much notice. For example when you try and recall a phone number, it is often remember in two or three ‘chunks’ rather than a sequence of individual numbers. There does not need to be a meaning behind the selections in a ‘chunk’, such as the first four digits being an area code. However if there is an underlying understanding behind the groups, the chance of remembering the information is greatly increased (Cooper, 1998).
Chunking is also used in design; however it is more of a visual representation. Categories of information are often grouped together.
This can be shown through:
- Text boxes isolating a specific concept or idea;
- The use of colour to link related ideas;
- Selecting a page layout that groups ideas;
- The use of headings and sub-headings to maintain one idea per paragraph; and
- The incorporation of graphics to link ideas, such as arrows or lines.
Chunking is used to make communication and the transfer of information more efficient and streamlined, resulting in a higher likelihood of it being remembered. It is used in education, everyday life and design practices to achieve this.
Butler, J., Holden, K., & Lidwell, W. (2003). Performance Load. In Universal Principles of Design (pp. 148-149). Massachusetts: Rockport.
Cooper, Dr. G. (1998). Research into Cognitive Load Theory and Instructional Design at UNSW. 2015, from http://dwb4.unl.edu/Diss/Cooper/UNSW.htm
Malamed, C. (2011). What is Cognitive Load? , 2015, from http://theelearningcoach.com/learning/what-is-cognitive-load/