EDTECH 513: Coherence Principle

The Coherence Principle


According to Clark & Mayer, the coherence principle may be the single most important of those presented.  In summary, it basically states to not over do it with extra unrelated graphics, sound, and media.  This principle appears to bring all those discussed up to this point together in a cohesive form.

  • make sure for those with little prior knowledge there are relevant graphics presented with word (these must be connected)
  • Audio narration of animation (if this is done; don’t use music too)
  • Avoid extraneous graphic as they can be disruptive to the learning process (Clark & Mayer, p. 159)
  • Avoid graphics and media that create distraction, disruption, & seduction
  • Keep images simple
  • Short concise narration is best
  • Use signaling such as: headings, bold, italics, underlining, capital letters, larger font, color, white space, arrows, and related techniques to draw the learner’s attention to specific parts of the display or page. (Clark & Mayer, p. 173)


Coherence in Action

In my own practice as an elementary educator, I have made the most use out of signaling to draw the learners attention to key information.  When creating step by step directions for students I make actions bold on the page.  Any screenshots showing students where buttons are in a software application have arrows pointing to where they need to look on the screen.  Give the fact that students are using these tools for the first time, I include a lot of screenshots embedded into project directions so students always know what the next step looks like.  I have also found video modeling to be very helpful.  Initially, I recorded a project as one long video file.  I found this was too long for students to track.  As a result, I now chunk the video modeling into chunks of about 3-5 minutes.


As for the acquisition of new vocabulary into working memory with younger students, I find using digital flashcards that have pictures and words very powerful.  Just last week I was using the interactive whiteboard as a whole group lesson on shapes using Quizlet.  We first previewed the shape vocabulary with word and image showing as phase one.  For phase two students matched the image with the correct work using the word using the scatter game.  It made for a great whole group lesson using digital tools to support learning.


Clark, R., & Mayer, R. (2008). Applying the Coherence Principle. In E-Learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer.


Mayer, R. E. (1999). Multimedia aids to problem-solving transfer. International Journal of Educational Research, 31(7), 611-623


Moreau, R., & Mayer, R. (n.d.). IMEJ Article – A Learner-Centered Approach to Multimedia Explanations: Deriving Instructional Design Principles from Cognitive Theory. Retrieved March 21, 2015, from http://imej.wfu.edu/articles/2000/2/05/index.asp

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