I think there is something to this!
The other day I wrote about microlectures in online education. This morning, I read Miguel’s post, Wordiness and Instructional Design. He had a link to Cathy Moore’s post Less Text, More Learning. Cathy shares insights from a report on a study by Richard E. Mayer, William Bove, Alexandra Bryman, Rebecca Mars, and Lene Tapangco published in Journal of Educational Psychology, 1996, Vol. 88, No. 1,64-73. (You can download the article in PDF from Cathy’s post if you are interested. I was!)
They looked at students and science texts. And what they found was that they didn’t learn nearly as well from long descriptions of something. What they learned from were short summaries of the text. These summaries have to include both text and pictures.
The authors of the study state on page 65:
a cognitive theory of multimedia learning is based on the idea that meaningful learning requires that the learner engage in five active cognitive processes: selecting words, selecting images, organizing words, organizing images, and integrating words and images.
Mayer and the others go on to say that their findings aren’t necessarily transferable to all subject matter and all students, but they are scientists; they have to say that. I think that there is a lot of possible transfer. And that, perhaps, is why microlectures work.
The aauthors of the study describe an effective summary this way:
What constitutes an effective multimedia summary? Our multimedia summary was constructed on the basis of three criteria: conciseness, in that only a few illustrations and sentences were presented; coherence, in that the images and sentences were presented in cause-and-effect sequence; and coordination, in that the images were presented contiguously with their corresponding sentences (i.e., each illustration had a verbal caption).
As I think back to the microlecture I linked to in the other post, it met those criteria pretty well — although the “images” of what was being taught were words, not pictures.
This all fits quite nicely, too with Garr Reymolds‘ take on presentations.
So it is definitely something I need to take into consideration when I am preparing lessons –especially online ones, but any lesson, really. We’ll see how I do!