T&D: Guidance Fading

“… maintain a good level of “desirable difficulty

From the Blog of Adam Boxer – @adamboxer1 on Twitter.

I’ve written before about a simplified model to summarise the cognitive load that a student feels during a particular task:


If you are unfamiliar with the model, please read about it first as it will help you a lot in this post, which will focus on how the variables change whilst a student is practising and how teachers must ensure that independent practice is a dynamic process that responds to students’ increasing knowledge and skill.

At the beginning of a task based on new material, students’ internal resources are, by definition, very low. They don’t know much about what you are teaching them, so you have to compensate either by providing them with external resources or by breaking the task up into smaller chunks (what I call quantity in the model above).


This helps to maintain a good level of “desirable difficulty” – not too hard, not too easy. Perfect for effective thought and – hopefully – learning.

However, as time goes on, students’ internal resources start to increase as they begin to learn the content. At this point your students are in danger of finding the task a bit too easy. If there are no difficulties involved, then learning is less likely to occur.

To read the rest of Adam’s Blog Post – please go here.

Thanks to Paul A. Kirschner and Mirjam Neelen for their ReBlog of this – which is where I came across this.

Their Blog is at:


Check out their post on this and their model:

Note that fading is a critical design component when designing for complex skills. Van Merriënboer’s 4C/ID model illustrates how fading is/can be part of the design. It’s also extensively discussed in Ten Steps to Complex Learning by Van Merriënboer and Kirschner (2018). See the example below.


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