This themed issue aims to present some current directions in cognitive load research. The contributions to this issue represent a compilation of symposia contributions to the 11th European Conference for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), 2005, in Nicosia, Cyprus. These cognitive load symposia were focused on empirical and theoretical perspectives on designing powerful learning environments by aligning learner characteristics, information characteristics, or both with the knowledge structures underlying the cognitive architecture. This article provides an introduction to cognitive load theory and the instructional design consequences of these characteristics, and a short overview of the contributions to this issue. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.