The Coherence Principle brings to our attention that learning is processed in different areas of the brain. This is dependent on what type of multimedia is being presented to the learner at the time. Learners process multimedia messages in their visual and auditory channels–both of which are limited in capacity (Moreno and Mayer). The two channels work against each other as they compete within the brain, for example when there is an educational animation movie that is shown the brain processes both the visual and the auditory aspects in different areas thus competing to make appropriate connections between animations and narration (Mayer).
One successful example of the Coherence Principle in my own classroom was a Power Point that I created. I created this presentation with extra sound effects because I had just learned how to add the effects and thought it was novel. The students were not paying any attention to the slides or the information, all they were doing was waiting for the next buzzing sound or bell ring so they could repeat that sound and laugh among themselves. I was frustrated and did not understand why this was not working. I knew from watching and the failed results that the sounds were not helping the students learn; however I did not understand this through the Coherence Principle that there is better transfer when extraneous material is excluded rather than included (Mayer). The next week I used the same power point with the class but I took away the many sound effects and only spoke when it was necessary. I then gave the students the same post quiz, they all passed unlike the previous test where more than seventy percent had failed. Background music and sounds may overload working memory, so they are most dangerous in situations in which the learner may experience heavy cognitive load, for example, when the material is unfamiliar, when the materials presented at a rapid rate,or when the rate of presentation is not under learner control (Clark & Mayer). My failed Power Point unfortunately met all criteria.
The Coherence Principle goes hand in hand with several Multimedia Learning principles that have been learned this semester; I will focus on two specific principles. The spatial contiguity principle states better transfer of knowledge when words and corresponding pictures are presented near rather than far from each other on the page or screen (Mayer). While taking both of these principles to teach students content the results will be significantly better, as the brain will be able to focus on one area such as the animations of the Power Point at the same time they will not have to take time to search for the text on the slide or page. This will make learning quick as well as the gain in content transfer. According to Mayer the spacial contiguity principle has a median gain in transfer of 70% and the Coherence principle has a median gain in transfer of 90 % Chunking was at 100% and so this is another area that should be implemented within the coherence principle. This can simply be done by alternating the visual and auditory information and keeping it short and simple (Mayer).
The learners are actively seeking to make sense of the presented material. When the material is understood it then gives the learner enjoyment. When the instructional designer adds unnecessary illustrations or sound to the presentation it can interfere in by distraction, disruption or seduction (Clark & Mayer). Words need also to be kept at a minimum for the Coherence Principle to be successfully implemented. Excess of anything in the presentation is against this psychology. Too many pictures or embellished pictures, or words (text) even if they are interesting they will become extraneous to the learner (Clark & Mayer).
I personally enjoy learning about fundamental theories in educational psychology. I also feel that I am at times able to test the theories within my own classroom. My previous example on my botched attempt at creating a “fantastic noisy power point” now seems like an oxymoron. I enjoyed seeing the results of using the Coherence Principle and using little or no sound so the students can focus on just learning the content at hand. It works. I look back at all of the horrible power point presentations that I created and feel horrible, I am glad I have this knowledge now and can start teaching more effectively. I think the authors need to also consider how sound can at times enhance a presentation as well. This can be seen in the redundancy principle as sound can be used to remind students of a certain group of objects or the beginning or end of a thought.
Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). E-learning and the science of instruction: proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
Mayer, R. E. (1999). Multimedia Aids to problem solving transfer. International journal of educational research, 31, 611-623.
Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (n.d.). IMEJ Article – A learner-centered approach to multimedia explanations: deriving instructional design principles from Cognitive Theory. Interactive multimedia electronic journal of computer-enhanced learning. Retrieved March 24, 2012, from http://imej.wfu.edu/articles/2000/2/05/index.asp