A very recent article from Eschool News titled Analysis: How Multimedia Can Improve Learning takes a look at a new report commissioned by Cisco Sytems that concludes adding visuals to verbal (textual and/or auditory) instruction can result in significant gains in basic or higher-order learning, if applied appropriately.
The analysis is based on the work of Richard Meyer, Roxanne Moreno, and other researchers who provide a list of learning principals for multimedia:
1. Multimedia Principle: Rentention is improved through words and pictures rather than through words alone.
2. Spatial Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented near each other, rather than far from each other on the page or screen.
3. Temporal Contiguity Principle: Students learn better when corresponding words and pictures are presented simultaneously rather than successively.
4. Coherence Principle: Students learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded rather than included.
5. Modality Principle: Students learn better from animation and narration than from animation and on-screen text.
6. Individual Differences Principle: Design effects are higher for low-knowledge learners than for high-knowledge learners. Also, design effects are higher for high-spatial learners than for low-spatial learners.
7. Direct Manipulation Principle: As the complexity of the materials increases, the impact of direct manipulation (animation, pacing) of the learning materials on the transfer of knowledge also increases.
You might be saying this sounds really good, but what about the numbers…..the analysis goes on to state based on meta-analysis, the average student’s scores on basic skills assessments increase by 21 percentiles when engaged in non-interactive, multimodal learning (which includes using the text with visual input, text with audio input, and watching and listening to animations or lectures that effectively use visuals) in comparison with traditional, single-mode learning.
When students shift from non-interactive multimodal to interactive multimodal learning (such as engagement in simulations, modeling, and real-world experiences---most often in collaborative teams or groups), results are not quite as high, with average gains at 9 percentiles.
However, when the average student is engaged in higher-order thinking using multimodal in interactive situations, on average, that student’s percentage ranking on higher-order or transfer skills increases by 32 percentile points over what the student would have accomplished with traditional learning.
Finally, the report provides some tips for teachers------
*Know the importance of the attention and the motivation of the learner. The "scaffolding" of learning--the act of providing learners with assistance or support to perform a task beyond their own reach--by reducing extraneous diversions and focusing the learner's attention on appropriate elements aligned to the topic has proven effective.
*Know the importance of separating the media from the instructional approach. A recent meta-analysis in which more than 650 empirical studies compared media-enabled distance learning to conventional learning found pedagogy to be more strongly correlated to achievement than media. The media and pedagogy must be defined separately.
Using the principles detailed above I plan to revisit some of my teacher-created handouts and slide presentations to see if I can do a better job of presenting combinations of text and visuals for students that meet the seven principles listed above.
While I did reproduce some of the article here there is much more for you to read over at Eschool News, and I encourage you do so.
Clive on Learning has also written about Cisco’s findings.