Thursday, April 3, 2014

513 Week 11 Coherence Analysis

1.  What is the Coherence Principle and its most important constraints/criteria?

According to Moreno and Mayer, “Students learn better when extraneous material is excluded rather than included in multimedia explanations.”  This is mostly due in part to the fact the human’s . . . “capacities of the visual and auditory working memory are highly limited.” (Mayer)

2.  Describe and/or include one example of successful and one example of unsuccessful attempts to apply the Coherence Principle in actual instruction and training you have experienced, especially as it might be implemented in PowerPoint-based instruction and training. Have you ever seen this principle violated or abused? Identify the violations, including citations as needed from your textbook.

I recently taught a lesson about the Social Psychology concept of “Evaluation Apprehension.”  On the same slide with the term evaluation apprehension I included a picture of a basketball player who is an example of what evaluation apprehension can do and another image of a different basketball player who is an example of someone who is resistant to evaluation apprehension.  My fear is that when my students recall the term and images, they will remember both images as being examples of evaluation apprehension.  I should have made two separate slides or not included the non-example at all. 

On several occasions, I have used music, comics, or stories that are loosely related to the topic to introduce a concept or to spice up a lesson.  The mistake is that the music, comic, or story is not an accurate example and it either distracts them from the main idea or confuses them as to what the concept really means.

3.  Discuss the relationship of the Coherence Principle to other Multimedia Learning Principles examined thus far in your readings.

Both the contiguity principles reinforce the idea that essential words and corresponding images should be on a slide in close proximity and at the same time.  (Mayer)  I also think the modality principle is designed to help the students focus on the important things that are being said while they look at the image instead of trying to read and make sense of sentences or paragraphs that are written on the slide. (Moreno & Mayer)

One that I don’t recall reading or learning about yet that I think really goes hand in hand with the coherence principle are the visual/auditory split attention principles.  If you have background sound while you are narrating a slide or if you have overly complicated animation or irrelevant visual prompts they can distract students and prevent them from focusing on the key concepts and their explanations. (Mayer)

4.  Discuss the relationship of the Coherence Principle to fundamental theories of psychology as described by Clark & Mayer in your textbook.

According to Clark and Mayer many instructors attempt to justify their use of extraneous sounds and images on the arousal theory.  “Arousal theory predicts that students will learn more from multimedia presentations that contain interesting sounds and music than from multimedia presentations without interesting sounds and music.”  (Clark & Mayer p. 156)  Clark and Mayer counter this theory by pointing out that our working memory has a limited capacity and when our students focus in on the extraneous sounds, music, or images they can’t focus what the instructor is saying or the main concept of the lesson.  They also added that a subject needs to be interested in and of itself, no amount of extraneous sounds, music, or images can make something more interesting that it actually is.  (Clark & Mayer. p. 156 & 161)

5.  What do you personally like or dislike about this principle? Present a coherent, informed opinion and explain why you hold this opinion. Are there any limitations or qualifications of the principle (caveats) which the authors did not consider and, if so, what are they?

I like that this principle is based on a physiological limitation that most humans have.  We can only take in or process so much information at any given time.  I like that it encourages teachers to be more deliberate in their curriculum design and instruction.  I have tried to fight against this principle for much of my career and I have paid the price.  The most common questions and comments I get are, “I don’t understand how that is an example or illustration of what we are learning?” and “Where are we and what am I supposed to be doing right now.”

What I do dislike about it is the fact that there are songs, stories, and activities I like to use in class even if they are not right on the mark and now I know that not only are they not helping students learn, they are actually disrupting student learning.

Clark, R. C., Mayer R. E. (2008). E-Learning and the Science of Instruction, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Sanfrancisco CA.

Mayer, R. E. (1999). Multimedia aids to problem-solving transfer. International Journal of Educational Research, 31(7), 611-623. (PDF file download)

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2000). A learner-centered approach to multimedia explanations: Deriving instructional design principles from cognitive theory. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer-Enhanced Learning, 2(2), 2004-07. Retrieved March 1, 2009 from

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