Coherence Analysis

What is the Coherence Principle and its most important constraints/criteria?

The coherence principle is the weeding out of unnecessary information: Both visual and auditory contained within e-learning. To apply the coherence principle presenters must avoid extraneous words, text, and graphics. Research has shown that by avoiding extraneous words, text, and graphics and sticking closely to the instructional objectives with a “less is more” approach, students will learn and attain more information (Mayer, Bove, Bryman, Mars, and Tapangco (1996, p. 64).

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.

Recently, I attended a virtual training for district instructional technology leaders. The presenter applied coherence principles to her Google Slides presentation. Her slides were designed with minimal text providing key points to the audience backing  up her slides with oral presentation. She followed the contiguity principle by placing graphics (not extraneous) near the text on the slides. Her graphics were basic, simple and relevant to the learning taking place. As Clark and Mayer (2011) state “we have several research studies in which a simpler graphic led to better learning than a more realistic or complex visual”  (p. 164). Because the presenter followed these coherence principles, I was able to learn more effectively and make connections.

On the other hand, I have seen presentations that don’t apply coherence principles. Many of the presentations I see are especially extraneous in text. Mayer and Jackson (2005) point out that quantitative text actually distracts learners (2005, p. 13). For me personally, if I see a slide with extraneous text, I tune the slide out because I am unable process that much information visually. Or, If I attempt to process the slide may, I then have trouble processing verbally what the presenter is saying because of sensory overload. Another aspect of the coherence principle that I see overlooked often is adding extraneous or fluff graphics to presentations. I have learned through the readings and my own experience, that extraneous or fluff-type graphics distract and hurt learning.

Discuss the relationship of the Coherence Principle to other Multimedia Learning Principles examined thus far in your readings.

I think the most important revelation I have learned from reading about the different multimedia principles is the importance of creating presentations with learning objectives in mind. All e-learning should be focused on what you want the learners to know from the presentation. Whether it be the principle of multimedia, contiguity, modality, redundancy, or coherence, you should ask yourself if what you are adding (graphics, text, words, etc) will help to achieve the instructional goals. If not, do not add them – less is more.

Discuss the relationship of the Coherence Principle to fundamental theories of psychology as described by Clark & Mayer in your textbook.

The arousal theory of motivation as it relates to the coherence principle states that we learn better when we are emotionally aroused through exciting graphics, video clips, etc. However, this doesn’t necessarily hold true in e-learning. As learners we need to make connections and if we are having trouble making coherent mental representation of the presented learning because of extraneous text and graphics, we are not emotionally aroused. However, if we apply coherence principles to our presentations, learners are more aroused because they are successful in making connections and interpreting the presented learning.

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?

For the most part I agree with the coherence principle. As an elementary teacher, I believe that unnecessary text, graphics, and words will distract kids. Everyday in my classroom I see first-hand how kids can easily be distracted. My question for the authors, is whether they have tried researching the coherence principle with younger learners? All the research results quoted in the text is with older learners. Most published instructional materials or curriculum geared for elementary aged learners have more graphics that are seemingly more exciting and engaging. Why do publishers do this? I wonder if having more of these types of graphics help to keep younger-aged students more engaged? I definitely believe extraneous text would lose young learners’ attention, but what about more graphics or even some fluff for them. I would love to see research on whether extraneous graphics would have the same negative impact on young learners as older? Would the results from the research vary based on the general age of students.


Clark, R., & Mayer, R. (2011). E-Learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning (3rd ed., p. 528). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Mayer, R.E., Bove, W., Bryman, A. Mars, R., & Tapangco, L. (1996). When less is more: Meaningful learning from visual and verbal summaries of science textbook lessons. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88,64-73

Mayer, R.E., & Anderson, R.B. (1992). The instructive animation: Helping students build connections between words and pictures in multimedia learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 444-452

AECT Guidelines (2012)

2.1 Creating – Candidates apply content pedagogy to create appropriate applications of processes and technologies to improve learning and performance outcomes. (p. 1)

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 (p. 116-117) grounded in reflective practice.

3.2 Using – Candidates make professionally sound decisions in selecting appropriate processes and resources to provide optimal conditions for learning (pp. 122, 169) based on principles, theories, and effective practices. (pp. 8-9, 168-169, 246)


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