The Coherence Principle states that instructional designers should limit the amount of extra words, graphics or sounds that do not directly impact learning. The recommendation for designers is to keep the materials free of clutter. (Clark & Mayer, 2008) Some people feel that the added elements serve to motivate or entertain the learners to make the materials more interesting. Research shows that the opposite happens. There are several studies documented in the chapter that prove that the added “fluff” actually takes away from the ability to learn and transfer information.
I recently attended an educational technology conference. In one of the sessions, it was fast paced and full of information. Unfortunately, all that I can remember is that they had a passion for PowerPoint. I remember thinking it must have taken a lot of time to create the presentation. For the life of me, I can’t remember what the presentation was about. It had lots of colors, links and etc. This would be an example of where the coherence principle was not followed. I agree with Clark & Mayer that designers are trying to reach out to learners in this era that are gamers. If you look at all of the new learning software or digital textbooks you will see the influence of the digital age on their design strategies. I haven’t decided if this is good or bad.
I do agree that less is more. The Coherence Principle follows the same general rule of the Multimedia, Contiguity, Modality and Redundancy Principles in that overloading the senses with extra sounds and images takes away from the learners ability to process new information. Yes, we want to engage our learners. As designers we need to follow best practice and research based evidence. Our goal is for the learners to acquire new information and transfer to other areas. Not to remember the class or lesson and simply think that they had a great presentation.
I have several students that struggle with their working memory. They are easily overloaded. I agree with the psychological reasons to avoid extraneous audio and visuals in a multimedia lesson. Especially for students who are easily distracted or have a harder time learning. An example of this would be watching some of my students take their ISAT. It is a nice feature that students can change the color of their font and background. However, it is frustrating watching a student do this several times while taking their test. They are not paying attention to the test, they are having fun with the fonts. I imagine the same thing would happen if my lesson was overloaded with video clips, extra music, etc. They wouldn’t be able to weed all of the extra out to focus on the heart of the lesson.
My opinion is that I do agree with the Coherence Principle. Designers need to find a way for learners to interact with the materials and be engaged in the learning process without having to add all of the extra that might take away from the overall learning. I don’t think that the research is as well known amongst teachers who design their own lessons or curriculum. I wouldn’t have know about these principles or research if I weren’t in this class. I don’t include all of the extra just because it distracts me. I think that educators are under the misconception that in order for this generation of student to be engaged, it has to be exciting and full of visuals and noise.
Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction, 2nd edition. Pfeiffer: San Francisco, CA.
Mayer, R. E. (1999). Multimedia aids to problem-solving transfer. International Journal of Educational Research, 31(7), 611-623
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 http://imej.wfu.edu/articles/2000/2/05/index.asp