1. What is the Coherence Principle and its most important constraints/criteria?
According to the coherence principle by adding extraneous words or pictures that are irrelevant to a multimedia presentation, this results in poorer performance on tests or on learning transfer (Mayer, Heiser, & Lonn, 2001). Clark and Mayer speak of seductive details in an effort to spice up a presentation (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 135). By adding extraneous audio to a presentation you overload the auditory channel. In a study conducted by Moreno and Mayer (2000a) a loop of background music was played simultaneously with the narrated animation (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 139). The study concluded that background noise interferes with the learning process. It overloads the auditory channel.
By adding extraneous graphics, it can interfere with the learner’s attempt’s to make sense of the presented material (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 141). These additions can lead to seduction, distraction, and disruption of learning transfer. Seduction refers to incompatible background knowledge that is unsuccessfully used to associate it to new knowledge. An example of seduction is when you review a subject about dog training then continue with how to shoot a bow and arrow. Distraction refers to adding irrelevant material to relevant material simultaneously. An example of distraction is when including background music along with your narration. According to studies by Moreno and Mayer (2000a), background music did not improve learning, and in fact, substantially hurt learning (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 139). Even though the information was different, it was processed through the same visual channel which can increase cognitive load (Lee, Bopry, & Hedberg, 2007). Disruption refers to adding irrelevant materials before, during or after relevant materials are presented. An example of disruption is discussing a lesson about how to build an igloo then switching to discussing how to pick apples then continuing back with the building an igloo lesson.
By adding extraneous words, you can confuse and frustrate the learner. When adding extra irrelevant words to the lesson the learner may distracted from the intended learning objective. As recommended by Clark and Mayer, keep it concise; if you don’t need it don’t use it. In a study by Mayer, Heiser, and Lonn (2001) students viewed a presentation with narration containing extraneous narration from the narrator and the results concluded irrelevant material does not help learning, and in fact may even hurt learning.
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.
PowerPoint presentations are used extensively in corporate settings. I have seen both good and bad presentations that result from proper training and implementation of using or not using the coherence principle. An example of a great presentation that I attended was presented by a financial institution. The institution was describing their history within the banking field. The pictures were relevant and the narration provided relevant needed information about the history. These slides were timed perfectly. For example, the picture of the stagecoach was timed perfectly with appropriate narration about the era and constraints of how banking was identified. The illustrations and narration were presented in an associated and meaningful context. There were no extraneous images, background music or narration to confuse any meaning implied or shown. I have not worked in that specific industry in over 4 years but I still remember the presentation. Meaningful learning transfer was completed.
On the other hand, an example of poor use of a PowerPoint presentation was for a river rafting exposition. The guide put together a PowerPoint presentation documenting specific points on how to secure your raft, general safety, and items to be taken along on the trip. In direct conflict with the coherence principle the PowerPoint was overloaded with irrelevant material, distracting background music and disruptive learning techniques. There was just too much information (text) and too many other distractions and disruptions (auditory and visual) for any meaningful learning to occur (Clark & Mayer, 2008). Furthermore, the guide consistently veered off track of what was relevant on screen by adding extraneous words and stories (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 139). Although the stories were interesting, I was actively seeking to make sense of the presentation but could not process the information due to my limited cognitive capacity (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 142). “When multimedia messages are designed in ways that overload visual or verbal working memory, transfer performance is adversely affected” (Mayer, 1999). I have been subject to an unfortunate PowerPoint overload.
3. Discuss the relationship of the Coherence Principle to other Multimedia Learning Principles examined thus far in your readings.
The coherence principle is related to the modality principle and redundancy principle with respect to sound, text and illustrations. The basic premise of modality refers to using audio with visuals to enhance or improve learning (Clark & Mayer, 2008). The redundancy principle refers to adding the exact same text onscreen as being narrated along with visuals simultaneously (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p.119). According to Multimedia Learning Principles, because the learning channels are separated into dual channels (audio and visual) the processing and learning transfer does not overload the cognitive capacity (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 107). In my distraction example located in question 1, by having narration and background music playing simultaneously (bi-stimulation) all the information is trying to battle for the same channel (audio). The funneling of all the information into one channel causes cognitive overload to occur. Furthermore, by keeping your presentation short and concise, the presentation will lend itself to both the modality and redundancy principles.
4. Discuss the relationship of the Coherence Principle to fundamental theories of psychology as described by Clark & Mayer in your textbook.
"The cognitive learning theory explains how mental processes transform information received by the eyes and ears into knowledge and skills in human memory" (Clark & Mayer, 2008, p. 37). The coherence principle relates to the overloading of the working memory. In multimedia presentations, the point of making the presentation is to enhance and stimulate the learner to achieve the instructional objectives. We humans only have a limited capacity to absorb information. It is in that challenge that the coherence principle instructs us to use more effective techniques to support the learning process.
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 personally like the coherence principle because it allows me to process information in a logical manner. The coherence principle is a reasoned and consistent approach to learning when presented with multimedia as well as presenting novel material which allows the learner to absorb the information in meaningful ways, without the encumbrance of extraneous material.
As a learner, I want the information to be rational and make logical sense in a flowing and consistent manner. When I am presented with material I want to walk away with pertinent knowledge and know my time has not been wasted. By applying the coherence principle and based upon all the studies listed in the Clark and Mayer e-Learning book (2008), I can achieve more efficient uptake in my knowledge processing. If I see myself becoming confused or not understanding the relevant materials, I can review the learning event and offload extraneous materials in the learning event.
Furthermore, by applying the coherence principle as a teacher, I will actively encourage my students to engage in a more meaningful and satisfying learning experience. By avoiding overloading the working memory, it leads to a greater capacity to process and learn new information. As a teacher and professional, presenting meaningful information is my goal. I want to be able to present information to my peers and/or students in the best possible learning manner. The coherence principle provides me this important structure to achieve maximum learning efficiency professionally or personally. It allows me to present novel information in a logical and consistent manner.
One limitation to the coherence principle is when giving a presentation in a distance course, asynchronously, the teacher cannot judge the interpretation of the presentation by the students. Because the teacher cannot see the facial expressions, body movements, boredom, etc. this may cause misinterpretations leading to not fully understanding the material as intended.
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.
Lee, C., Bopry, J., & Hedberg, J. (2007). Methodological issues in using sequential representations in the teaching of writing. ALT-J Research in Learning Technology, 15(2), 131-141. doi: 10.1080/09687760701482234
Mayer, R. E. (1999). Multimedia aids to problem-solving transfer. International Journal of Educational Research, 31(7), 611-623.
Mayer, R. E., Heiser, J., & Lonn, S. (2001). Cognitive constraints on multimedia learning: When presenting more material results in less.... Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(1), 187-198.