513 – Coherence Analysis

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

The coherence principle in multimedia learning suggests that presentations must contain elements that are logical and consistent with the objectives of the presentation and that extraneous images, audio, or animation detracts from learning. “In short, according to the coherence principle, you should avoid adding any material that does not support the instructional goals.”(Clark & Mayer, 2008) The theory is that unnecessary audio or visual material may overload cognitive channels and decrease comprehension by the learner. Although, “Mayer listed positive results for eliminating extraneous materials in thirteen out of fourteen experiments…”(Clark & Mayer, 2008), it is still unclear how the coherence principle effects learners with extensive prior knowledge on a subject or learners within a long term instructional program. It is within this context that the Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer Enhanced learning recommends educators should “…identify techniques for presentation of verbal and visual information that minimizes working memory load and promotes meaningful learning.”(Moreno & Mayer, 1999)

  1. 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.

Many times, in an effort to increase interest or emotional arousal in a presentation, instructional designers will introduce extraneous multimedia elements in order to increase perceived level of excitement or engagement. Arousal theory is “the idea that entertaining and interesting embedded effects cause learners to become more emotionally aroused and therefore work harder to learn the material.”(Clark & Mayer, 2008) Unconsciously, this is the principle I have seen applied many times by students in my Media Arts classes who, after creating a presentation rich with interesting visuals and informative content, resort to overlaying the latest hip-hop hit that is appealing to the group, but irrelevant to the project. Student developers are hoping to appeal to the viewer’s musical aesthetic in order to engage their interest in the presentation, thereby reducing the likelihood of any meaningful learning. Alternatively, I have seen many examples of Media Arts students adhering to the coherence principle in the creation of nonverbal narratives, which use music to support the story through establishing the mood and atmosphere of the conflict and the emotional elements of character. Through the careful selection of music one can enhance the visual impact of the narrative and the overall impact of the presentation.

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

Cognitive, Redundancy, and Modality Principles are related to each other and the Coherence Principle through their relationship to how people learn and the limitations of human perception. All of the theories revolve around the limitations of cognitive input and deal with sight, sound, and our ability to synthesize a finite amount of information at any given time. The above principles all relate to the organization of learning materials in such a way as to avoid overloading cognitive channels and designing educational materials to manipulate and maximize sensory input for learning.

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

As far back as 1913 John Dewey wrote in his paper Internet and effort in education, that “…interest cannot be added to an otherwise boring lesson like some kind of seasoning.”(Dewey, 1913). If the lesson is uninteresting, one must look to the material itself and in fact the introduction of unnecessary visuals or sound will have the opposite effect, distracting the learner and interfering with their ability to make sense of the given material. These negative learning results are amplified for students who have trouble processing information. Psychologically, it is suggested that learning materials that are streamlined to present in a coherent, uncluttered, and simplified manner, without the addition of supplemental material, are more likely to be understood and retained because the learning process stems from the students cognitive efforts to “fill in the gaps” and make sense of the material. Students given too much information on a topic, especially if it delivered in simultaneous cognitive channels, will not retain the information due to cognitive overload.

 

  1. 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?

It could be argued that the coherence principle simplifies the learning process and does not consider the cognitive capabilities of the advanced student. It is clear that there are limitations to cognitive input no matter how much previous knowledge a student has, however does the inclusion of examples that involve the application of the learning principles in real life situations qualify as extraneous? The text suggests that adding extraneous words to add technical depth to information such as providing extended examples of the learning principle at work may distract from the learning objectives. This may be applied to the learner who is new to the material, but can this be true with experienced students of the material? I would contest that providing real life applications of the learning material within a presentation would assist with the cognitive process of “making sense” of the material. In my experience providing contextual examples of concepts reinforces understanding and increases retention.

References:

 

1. Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

 

2. Dewey, J. (1913). Internet and effort in education. Cambridge, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

 

3. Mayer, R.E.,  & Moreno, R. (2000). A Learner-Centered Approach to Multimedia Explanations: Deriving Instructional Design Principles from Cognitive Theory. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer-Enhanced Learning. Wake Forest University.