Principles for multimedia learning with Richard E. Mayer

Over 70 faculty, students and staff joined HILT on Monday, May 5 in Sever Hall for a talk by featured guest Richard E. Mayer, professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Richard Mayer

See Also: 

Full lecture video ~ Presentation Slides ~ Dr. Mayer Bio ~ Background reading

One of Dr. Mayer’s primary research interests is multimedia learning. In his work, he applies basic findings from cognitive psychology to practical questions in learning, teaching, and communication, most notably: How can individuals effectively design visual content (e.g., PowerPoint presentations) to accompany their verbal presentations and written text?

The Science of Learning

[View this portion of the lecture video]
Dr. Mayer introduced his research by defining the Science of Learning for the audience and where multimedia learning fits. He emphasized an important distinction between learning as information acquisition, and learning as knowledge construction: “We are really in the knowledge business in education. It’s difficult to view learning as some commodity that can be taken from the outside world and placed in someone’s head. People always relate it to their prior knowledge, rearrange it, try to make sense out it. That’s how learning works.” His research is focused on knowledge construction, which requires an active-learning approach (although, Mayer noted, the level of cognitive activity applied to a lesson is more important than the level of behavioral activity). 

How Does Multimedia Learning Work?

[View this portion of the lecture video]
Multimedia instruction helps learners understand concepts with the use of words and images. Dr. Mayer explained that there are three cognitive processes required for meaningful learning: selecting, organizing, and integrating. The multimedia techniques of his research aim to prime these processes. 

People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone…

His research indicates that students learn Research findings                                                                          better with multimedia. The graphic at right shows the results of nine studies, where the black bars represent presentation in words and pictures, while the white bars represent presentation of words alone. The Y axis is the percentage correct on a transfer test. “It is what gets me excited about the idea of multimedia learning: I think we can greatly increase peoples’ understanding, at least in this case of how things work, by including graphics.” He later added that additional research into multimedia learning and instruction is necessary.

… but not all graphics are created equal

“It’s very easy to use graphics in an ineffective way. So the real question here is: How can we integrate words and pictures to maximize learning?” Dr. Mayer framed the remainder of his presentation around three top level-goals in the design of multimedia instruction for the most meaningful learning:

  1. reduce extraneous processing
  2. manage essential processing
  3. foster generative processing

Five Principles for Reducing Extraneous Processing

(View this portion of the lecture video)

  1. Coherence principle
  2. Signaling principle
  3. Redundancy principle
  4. Spatial contiguity principle
  5. Temporal contiguity principle

Three Principles for Managing Essential Processing

(View this portion of the lecture video)

  1. Segmenting principle
  2. Pre-training principle
  3. Modality principle

Two Principles for Fostering Generative Processing  

(View this portion of the lecture video)

  1. Personalization principle
  2. Voice principle

The Bottom Line

“People learn better from multimedia messages when they are designed in ways that are consistent with how the human mind works and are consistent with research based principles.”