Coherence Principle Analysis

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

The Coherence Principle focuses on how instruction is presented through audio and visual messages, which is essentially, multimedia. The principle stresses that when creating instruction, it is important not to use extraneous elements, whether it be illustrations, text or audio. Too much information can essentially hinder learning, therefore, the coherence principle states that information that is not directly relative to the subject at hand should not be used. It can be said that when applying the coherence principle, less is more (Mayer, 1999).

When using the coherence principle, there are many other principles, as well as other models, that can lend support in the success of creating the appropriate instruction. The following will help foster better habits of instruction such as: The contiguity principles, the chunking principle and the visual and auditory-split effects, to name a few (Moreno & Mayer, 2000).

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

Here is one example of a lesson using the coherence principle properly:

In this example of defining what a corporate identity is, the visual defines the elements, supported with text and graphics in the most simplistic manner, making sure that no extraneous elements or images are used to overload the learner.

Here is one example that defies the coherence principle:

In this example of Celtic bowls, the instruction is all over the place. It is very difficult to concentrate on instruction because of the extraneous images and text, thus visual overload. Once again, less is more.

During my first credentialing classes in 1995, I experienced some of the worst PowerPoint presentations that essentially put the class to sleep as well as completely confused us learners. I think our professor was so excited about using this new presentation tool that he lost sight of his simple instruction on the theory of Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor domains. Although this example is not his PowerPoint, it is a good example of what not to do, as presented by Don McMillian in 2012.

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

The coherence principle is very relative to the other principles we’ve learned thus far. It is all about using the right types of multimedia elements in order to create the best instruction – but not overload the learner’s cognitive channels, whether audio or visual. The contiguity principle basically applies the simple rule of presenting text and graphics in close proximity to each other, to prevent overloading the learner’s visual channel. The modality principle suggests that visual illustrations/animations be used along with audio, rather than on-screen text, to split both cognitive channels to prevent overload. The redundancy principle requires using visual illustrations and graphics with on-screen text but never in combination with narration simultaneously. It also implies that if graphics are not used within instruction, on-screen text can be used along with narration to help the learner cognitively. All in all, the aforementioned principles’ main purposes are to aid instruction by using the appropriate multimedia to its full potential while preventing cognitive channel overload that could be a detriment to successful learning.

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

Within the text, the arousal theory is presented which theorists say can arouse the learner with something interesting, whether it be visual or audio, which will promote better learning . However, according to Dewey in 1913,  it was argued that adding interesting adjuncts to an otherwise boring lesson will not promote deep learning (Clark & Mayer, 2011). Furthermore, learners listening to background sounds and music can overload and this can disrupt the cognitive system (Clark & Mayer, 2011).

 What do you personally like or dislike about this principle? Present a coherent, informed opinion and explain why you hold this opinion. Are there any limitations or qualifications of the principle (caveats) which the authors did not consider and, if so, what are they?

I agree with the coherence principle within the use of graphic design, both in my business as well as in instruction. As a designer, I find that there is plenty of poor visual communication that does not apply this simple principle. You see it on brochures and informational pieces such as posters, etc., but the area of design that most people can relate to is outdoor advertising. There are many billboards that defeat their purpose because of extraneous graphic elements that take away from precious scan time, which is approximately three seconds. The blatant overload of these graphic elements completely disrupts your cognitive channels as you drive by the billboard, and think to yourself, “what did that billboard mean?” or, “what was its purpose?” In addition (and not recognized by the authors), when it comes to instruction through multimedia, the application of all of the principles mentioned are essential but in the case where an instructional designer builds the instruction, s/he must have design sense in order for instruction to be visually pleasing as well as functional. That said, it cannot be all theoretical.

This assignment meets the following AECT Standards:

1.2 Message Design

Message design involves planning for the manipulation of the physical form of the message.

3.1 Media Utilization

Media Utilization is the systematic use of resources for learning.


Clark, R. C. & Mayer, R. E. (2011). E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer

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

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R. E. (2000). A learner-centered approach to multimedia explanations: Deriving instructional design principles from cognitive theory. Interactive Multimedia Electronic Journal of Computer-Enhanced Learning, 2(2). Retrieved from


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