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March 22, 2015
What is the Coherence Principle and its most important constraints/criteria?
The Coherence Principle states that the only “words, graphics, or sounds” necessary for a lesson plan should be included in a presentation; this is its most important principle constraints. E-Learning and the Science of Instruction calls it a “weeding out” process. The ID should only include the information necessary so that the learner doesn’t get overwhelmed.
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.
The PowerPoint presentation that stands out in my mind as unsuccessful was an example that was shared in class. (The person sharing it also used it as an example of a bad PowerPoint.) It was a military training presentation that he had taken part of, and visually, it looked so chaotic that I couldn’t really concentrate on any one thing. (The graphic looked like the paint splatter art, but without the symmetry that most good modern artists bring to their canvases.)
However, as I looked back through that week’s assignments, I couldn’t find the presentation that my classmate was referring to. Because of this, I did go and find some examples on the Internet to demonstrate that I understand the principles behind good and bad PowerPoint presentations. The third example on this pagedemonstrates the Coherence Principle concretely. The slide has so much information that it’s difficult to read.
As we learned in the book on page 35, the human brain has limited capacity to take in information, and the learner literally has sensory overload when there’s too much information on the page. The amount of material that’s possible for the student to learn actually goes down dramatically when this principle is abused.
Truthfully, it wasn’t until I took this class that I even thought much about what made a good PowerPoint presentation. In terms of finding good examples, I actually had to do some digging and finally found this site. The blog post presented 25 of the best slide presentations. The slides were simple, keeping the information compact and to-the-point on each slide. While the slides fit many of the principles spoken about in the book, I couldn’t help but notice how well they also fit the rules given to the class in the PDF Five Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload.
For the most part, each slide in each presentation adheres to principles like “signaling,” “segmenting,” and “coherence.” I am especially impressed with the “Fix Your Really Bad PowerPoint” presentation. The slides visually interesting without being too busy; they provided a very good example of coherence in action. What I really appreciated about this particular set of slides is how much the slidemakers used good visual design. We have been cautioned against putting too much on the slides. We’ve also been warned against using visuals for visuals’ sake. However, I believe that especially in the latter case, it would easy to go overboard and try to downplay the visuals. Instead, the right kind of visuals in the right amount and for the right reasons can enhance a presentation. I felt that this example really showed this.
Discuss the relationship of the Coherence Principle to other Multimedia Learning Principles examined thus far in your readings.
The most obvious example, although certainly not the only one, is how the Coherence Principle relates to chunking. Because chunking asks that an ID break the information down into smaller pieces, it also requires that only the pieces of information that go with a particular chunk of information be included. In principle, chunking weeds out extra information automatically. The handout Five Ways to Reduce PowerPoint Overload by Atkinson and Mayer call chunking by the name of “segmentation.”
Discuss the relationship of the Coherence Principle to fundamental theories of psychology as described by Clark & Mayer in your textbook.
Clark & Mayer talk about this when they speak about adding extra pictures to a presentation. While extra photos may add to emotional arousal, it cannot make a boring lesson better. Extra photos won’t help bad material, and they can block a learner from learning by overloading cognitive capacity.
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?
The Coherence Principle has much to offer the instructional designer, particularly as it relates to keeping lessons simple for the novice learner as Clark and Mayer point out on page 173. This point represents both the up and down sides of the Coherence Principle to me. Not enough research has yet been done to determine whether adhering to this principle matters as much to the advanced learner. I suspect that it does, but not to the degree that it does when a person is just learning a skill.
Here’s an example from my own life as a foreign language learner and foreign language teacher. At some point my students and I have reached a stage where we can “listen with one ear.” Here’s what I mean: Let’s say that we’re in a restaurant, reading our text messages on our phones, and all around us, people are speaking in German (or any foreign language that we know). At the advanced level of language study, we will still be able to understand the conversation even though we are not exactly paying attention to the speaker. We don’t need to look at a person’s face when he/ she is talking. We don’t have to translate what the words mean in our heads before we can respond. We know the language.
However, a non-native beginner would not be able to follow along at all. An intermediate speaker of the language could follow along, but he/she would really have to pay attention to what was said, what the gestures were, etc. The non-native advanced speaker of the language could pull this off in almost every case except for when he/she encounters really complicated sentence structures or vocabulary words related to some complicated subject matter, rocket science for example. Even native English speakers would have problems with the conversation in this context, because the vocabulary is very specialized.
In my experience, when an advanced foreign language speaker is put into this situation, he/she will sometimes be unable to process too much information. In other words, the Coherence Principle kicks in, but I believe that it exists on a continuum, again, based upon my experience. So if this person is watching a slideshow or a film, he/ she will be able to take in a certain amount of information without any trouble, but after a certain point where new material is introduced, only so much of it can be introduced at a time before the brain goes on overload.
In light of this, I would say that the better question about Coherence Principle isn’t whether or not it will kick in when too much information is introduced, but when it will kick in.
Atkinson, C. & Mayer, R. (2004). Five ways to reduce PowerPoint overload.
Clark, R., & Mayer, R. (2011). E-Learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.
Overton: Study and communication skills for the chemical sciences: PowerPoint slides. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2015, from http://global.oup.com/uk/orc/chemistry/overton/01student/ppts/
25 of the Best PowerPoint Presentation Examples Every Marketer Should See. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2015, from http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/inspiring-slideshare-presentations-for-marketers-list
1.3 Assessing/Evaluating – Candidates demonstrate the ability to assess and evaluate the effective integration of appropriate technologies and instructional materials. •
2.3 Assessing/Evaluating – Candidates demonstrate an inquiry process that assesses the adequacy of learning and evaluates the instruction and implementation of educational technologies and processes grounded in reflective practice.
3.2 Using – Candidates make professionally sound decisions in selecting appropriate processes and resources to provide optimal conditions for learning based on principles, theories, and effective practices.
3.6 Diversity of Learners – Candidates foster a learning community that empowers learners with diverse backgrounds, characteristics, and abilities.