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Coherence Principle

The coherence principle, as related by Clark and Mayer (2013), states that extra sound or visual animations when added to instructional materials can inhibit student learning.  Research on coherence demonstrates that learners perform better on post-instruction assessments when instructional materials limit the use of unnecessary or extra animation or sounds .

One of the very first online courses that I took was a great example of the use of coherence. In this course, lecture information was presented in narrated power-point presentations. In this case, the lecturer did not use any additional audio, such as music or sound effects (Clark & Mayer, 2008). Simple, on screen text was paired with companion lecture notes that allowed me to listen to the instruction and fill-in key words in lecture outlines.

Alternatively, I cannot remember one specific violation in particular, but a common mistake that I see is in PowerPoint presentations is the use of sound effects when animated text “appears” on the slide. The use of these sounds is often thought to add emphasis, but I found them to be more distracting than helpful (Clark & Mayer, 2008).

The underlying theme of much of the research that Clark and Mayer (2008) outlines in our course text relates to the idea of “less is more”. The dual channel processing theory (Clark and Mayer, 2013) and cognitive load (Mayer 1999).

Most importantly, the concept of cognitive load, or that there are two separate channels in which we receive information while learning is a common thread throughout the concept of coherence. In this context, the coherence principle relates to the concept of cognitive load because limiting extraneous audio and visual animations is thought to increase information retention (Moreno & Mayer 2000).

After completing the readings for this week’s assignment, I am left with a question. The research presented in the course text and readings about the concept of coherence and cognitive load seem quite straightforward with the exception of its relationship to constructivism. Kirschner et al (2006) and Meyer (2009) make a strong case for why constructivism is a failed instructional theory. And if we are to believe that constructivism is not an accurate learning theory, how does the concepts outlined by Clark, Mayer, and Moreno to be contextualized?

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction, 2nd edition. Pfeiffer: San Francisco, CA.

Kirchner, P. et al (2006). Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does Not Work: An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based Teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.

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

Meyer, R. (2009). The Poverty of Constructivism. Educational Technology and Theory, 41 (3),  332-341.

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 10, 2009 from http://imej.wfu.edu/articles/2000/2/05/index.asp

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