Five Common but Questionable Principles of Multi-Media Instruction

Anyone who has been following along with the many myth-busting articles and presentations in ISPI publications and conferences knows that sometimes the most obvious-seeming “truths” turn out not to be true.

It’s so easy to assume that intuitively correct-sounding principles will help us. Sadly, we can be wrong about what works and what doesn’t if we only take our intuition into account.

Richard E. Clark and David F. Feldon wrote a chapter for Richard E. Meyer’s (ed.) 2005 Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning that reviews “Five Common but Questionable Principles of Multi-Media Instruction.”

Here’s the list of principles from the abstract:

This chapter describes five commonly held principles about multimedia learning that are not supported by research and suggests alternative generalizations that are more firmly based on existing studies. The questionable beliefs include the expectations that multimedia instruction: 1) yields more learning than live instruction or older media; 2) is more motivating than other instructional delivery options; 3) provides animated pedagogical agents that aid learning; 4) accommodates different learning styles and so maximizes learning for more students; and 5) facilitates student managed constructivist and discovery approaches that are beneficial to learning.

It’s worth taking a look at these principles, which may sound familiar to some of us. It’s especially worth taking a look before trying to use them to design instruction. We should make sure that, where we can, we do not accidentally design instruction using principles that will not encourage the results we’re trying to achieve.

Reference | Clark, R. E. & Feldon, D. F. (In press for 2005). Five common but questionable principles of multimedia learning. In Mayer, R. (Ed.) Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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