why instructional design doesn’t typically work with students, or anyone’s learning for that matter, when you teach with PowerPoint—as well as how you can avoid it. It all begins with a little concept called “cognitive load.”
Cognitive load describes the capacity of our brain’s working memory (or WM) to hold and process new pieces of information. We’ve all got a limited amount of working memory, so when we have to handle information in more than one way, our load gets heavier, and progressively more challenging to manage.
In a classroom, a student’s cognitive load is greatly affected by the “extraneous” nature of information—in other words, the manner by which information is presented to them (Sweller, 2010). Every teacher instinctively knows there are better—and worse—ways to present information.
A study in Australia in the late 1990s (the 1999 Kalyuga study) compared the learning achievement of a group of college students who watched an educator’s presentation involving a visual text element and an audio text element (meaning there were words on a screen while the teacher also talked) with those who only listened to a lecture, minus the pesky PowerPoint slides.
Researchers including John Sweller and Kimberly Leslie contend that it would be easier for students to learn the differences between herbivores and carnivores by closing their eyes and only listening to the teacher. But students who close their eyes during a lecture are likely to to called out for “failing to paying attention.”
Richard Mayer, a brain scientist at UC Santa Barbara and author of the book Multimedia Learning, offers the following prescription: Eliminate textual elements from presentations and instead talk through points, sharing images or graphs with students
a separate Australian investigation by Leslie et al. (2012), suggest that mixing visual cues with auditory explanations (in math and science classrooms, in particular) are essential and effective. In the Leslie study, a group of 4th grade students who knew nothing about magnetism and light learned significantly more when presented with both images and a teacher’s explanation than a separate group which received only auditory explanation.
Limit yourself to one word per slide. If you’re defining words, try putting up the vocabulary word and an associated set of images—then challenge students to deduce the definition.
Honor the “personalization principle,” which essentially says that engaging learners by delivering content in a conversational tone will increase learning. For example, Richard Mayer suggests using lots of “I’s” and “you’s” in your text, as students typically relate better to more informal language.
An, Donggun, and Martha Carr. “Learning styles theory fails to explain learning and achievement: Recommendations for alternative approaches.” Personality and Individual Differences 116 (2017): 410-416.
To assist time-strapped instructional faculty and staff, we offer a consolidated summary of key cognitive science principles, in the form of an easy-to-remember acronym: ANSWER.
Attention: Learning requires memory, and memory requires focused attention. Multitasking is a myth, and even the more scientifically-accurate term “task-switching” yields errors compared to focused attention. The brain is quite adept at filtering out dozens of simultaneous stimuli, as it does every second of wakefulness. Attention is a required ingredient for learning. This has ramifications for syllabus policies on the use of electronic devices for note-taking, which have been shown to be irresistible and therefore lead to distraction and lower scores (Ravizza, Uitvlugt, and Fenn). Even when students are not distracted, laptops are used primarily for dictation, which does little for long-term memory; writing by hand does more to stimulate attention and build neural networks than typing (Mueller and Oppenheimer).
Novelty: variety into lesson plans, activities, and opportunities for practice, instructors amplify potential learning for their students. Further, the use of metaphors in teaching enhances transfer, hemispheric integration, and retention, so using picture prompts and images can further solidify student learning (Sousa).
Spacing: Sometimes called “distributed practice,”the spacing effect refers to the jump in performance when students study a subject and then practice with gaps of time, ideally over one or more nights (sleep helps with memory consolidation), as compared to studying all at once, as if cramming the night before a test. Cramming, or massed practice, is successful for temporary test performance, since information is loaded into working memory. But the practices that work well for short-term memory do not work well for long-term memory. The spacing effect is particularly effective when combined with interleaving, the intentional practice of mixing in older learning tasks/skills with the new ones (Roedeiger, et al.). An ideal example of this would be regular quizzes in the semester that are cumulative (think “tiny final exams”).
Why: Memory is associative; when new memories are formed, neurons wire together (and later fire together), so the context can lead to the information, and vice versa. A teaching strategy of comprised of questions to guide lesson plans (perhaps even beginning with mystery) can pique student interest and learning potential. If you use PowerPoint, Haiku Deck, or Prezi, do your slides consist primarily of answers or questions?
Emotions: Short-term memories are stored in the hippocampus, a portion of the brain associated with emotions; the same area where we consolidate short-term into long-term memories overnight.
As instructors, we create the conditions in which students will motivate themselves (Ryan & Deci, 2000) by infusing our interactions with the positive emptions of curiosity, discovery, and fun. Simple gamification (quizzes with immediate feedback, for instance) can help.
Repetition: The creation of a new memory really means the formation of synapses across neurons and new neural pathways. These pathways and bridges degrade over time unless the synapse fires again. Consider the days before smartphones, when the way to remember a phone number was to repeat it several times mentally. Repetition, in all its forms, enables more effective recall later. This is why quizzing, practice testing, flashcards, and instructor-driven questioning and challenges are so effective.
For a new paper in Anatomical Sciences Education, a pair of researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have conducted just such an investigation with hundreds of undergrads. Once again however the findings do not support the learning styles concept, reinforcing its reputation among mainstream psychologists as little more than a myth.
one of the most popular online learning styles surveys, the VARK. Taken by millions of people worldwide, the VARK categorises students according to how much they prefer to learn visually, via auditory information, through reading and writing, or through kinaesthetics (by doing or by practical example).
Husmann and O’Loughlin don’t pull any punches in their conclusion. Their findings, they write – especially when considered in the context of past research – “provide strong evidence that instructors and students should not be promoting the concept of learning styles for studying and/or for teaching interventions. Thus, the adage of ‘I can’t learn subject X because I am a visual learner’ should be put to rest once and for all.”
Venue Hotel – Fourside Hotel City Center Vienna Grieshofgasse 11, A – 1120 Wien / Vienna, AUSTRIA
About the Conference
International Academic Conference in Vienna 2017 is an important international gathering of scholars, educators and PhD students. IAC-GETL 2017 in Vienna will take place in conference facilities located in Vienna, the touristic, business and historic center of Austria.
Conference language: English language
Conferences organized by the Czech Institute of Academic Education z.s. and Czech Technical University in Prague.
Conference Topics – Education, Teaching, Learning and E-learning
Education, Teaching and Learning
Distance Education, Higher Education, Effective Teaching Pedagogies, Learning Styles and Learning Outcomes, Emerging Technologies, Educational Management, Engineering and Sciences Research, Competitive Skills, Continuing Education, Transferring Disciplines, Imaginative Education, Language Education, Geographical Education, Health Education, Home Education, Science Education, Secondary Education, Second life Educators, Social Studies Education, Special Education, Learning / Teaching Methodologies and Assessment, Assessment Software Tools, Global Issues In Education and Research, Education, Research and Globalization, Barriers to Learning (ethnicity, age, psychosocial factors, …), Women and Minorities in Science and Technology, Indigenous and Diversity Issues, Intellectual Property Rights and Plagiarism, Pedagogy, Teacher Education, Cross-disciplinary areas of Education, Educational Psychology, Education practice trends and issues, Indigenous Education, Academic Research Projects, Research on Technology in Education, Research Centres, Links between Education and Research, Erasmus and Exchange experiences in universities, Students and Teaching staff Exchange programmes
Educational Technology, Educational Games and Software, ICT Education, E-Learning, Internet technologies, Accessibility to Disabled Users, Animation, 3D, and Web 3D Applications, Mobile Applications and Learning (M-learning), Virtual Learning Environments, Videos for Learning and Educational Multimedia, Web 2.0, Social Networking and Blogs, Wireless Applications, New Trends And Experiences, Other Areas of Education