Project #6: Coherence Analysis

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

The Coherence Principle refers to the elimination of extraneous and unnecessary materials within a designed lesson.  The principle focuses on what the instructor can eliminate from the lesson design, such as extraneous audio, extraneous graphics, and extraneous words.  The question that instructors should ask themselves when designing a lesson is “Is this graphic (music, word, etc.) essential for the understanding of the lesson objective?”.

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.

One successful training I have taken that aligned with the Coherence Principle was the Powerpoint, discussion, and performance task training I took entitle “Active Shooter”.  The presentation portion only included information that we were going to use in the active shooter scenarios.  I have also seen unsuccessful trainings in relation to the Coherence Principle.  One training course I took to learn a student information database had pictures and paragraphs of information.  In truth, it should not have been a presentation, but probably a step-by-step .pdf format.

Have you ever seen this principle violated or abused? Identify the violations, including citations as needed from your textbook.

I have seen this principle violated frequently with the use of background music.  Many of the presentations that I have viewed in this program have had extraneous background music.  These were generally created by students, and I do not believe they were aware of the Coherence Principle.  Clark and Meyer state that “…evidence points to the mental toll that can be levied by extraneous sounds” (2011, p. 158).  After reviewing a variety of studies, Clark and Meyer (2012) noted better learning transfer when extraneous sounds and music are not included.

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

The Coherence Principle easily aligns with the Contiguity Principle, as both consider the careful selection of both graphics and words.  Instructors are encouraged to think deeply about the wording and graphic selection in order to convey their message easily.  Additionally, the Modality Principle and Coherence Principle are related as the Modality Principle recommends narration for complex-graphic presentations, and does not recommend music or sound effects as part of the narration.  The Redundancy Principle directly relates to the Coherence Principle by recommending the use of audio OR text, not both, thus aligning with the reduction of extraneous audio and words.

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

The reduction of extraneous elements is supported by the cognitive theory of multimedia media learning in which deeper learning occurs when presentation-based distractions are reduced.  The arousal theory is contraindicated, however, and evidence seems to be stronger toward the reduction of extraneous elements, rather than the inclusion as a method to increase arousal.  It should be noted that additional research is needed in relation to learner interest and cognitive load.

What do you personally like or dislike about this principle? Present a coherent, informed opinion and explain why you hold this opinion.

I appreciate this principle because I am a learner that is often distracted by elements that are meant to arouse, but are not necessarily required to understand the content.  I remember when I learned PowerPoint many years ago and we were encouraged to add slide sounds effects.  Whenever I viewed a PowerPoint and heard the random sound effects, it would almost always result in a class-wide discussion of the sound effect selected, not the content.  I have seen this occur now that I am an educator, as well.  Sometimes I use presentations that were designed by others, and I have found that the presentations with sound effects are going to completely “derail” any content-based discussion I am hoping for.  Therefore, I am for the elimination of extraneous effects, specifically for objective-based learning.

Are there any limitations or qualifications of the principle (caveats) which the authors did not consider and, if so, what are they?

Although this was briefly discussed in the text, game-based learning theories contradict a lot of the information found in many of the multimedia principles.  I think a designation of objective-based versus “casual”, or informal learning should be made.  Casual learning could be playing a video game with historical elements, for example, and extraneous effects may be added when considering motivation, arousal, and flow theories.  Kapp (2012) explained that game research proves games are beneficial for learning, especially when the content is objective-based.  The multimedia principles discussed in this particular book seems to focus more on online/face-to-face instruction where the learning is more formal.  Considerations should be made for game-based learning in relation to the various multimedia principles.

Furthermore, as more research is done on multimedia theories, researchers are finding evidence that does not directly align with these principles.  One example is the study conducted by Schweppe and Rummer (2016) where they determined that “combining pictorial information and written text is beneficial for long-term learning, contrary to what has been suggested in the modality principle of multimedia learning” (p. 135).  If the modality principle is found to be questionable, then it is likely that the coherence principle will also be questionable.  Additional research is indicated, especially as society continues to learn more about the brain and memory.


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

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and                         strategies for training and education. San Francisco: CA: Pfeiffer.

Schweppe, J., & Rummer, R. (2016). Integrating written text and graphics as a desirable             difficulty in long-term multimedia learning. Computers in Human Behavior, 60,                           131-137. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.02.035