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    • #29080
      Juliet Parfitt
      Keymaster
        @juliet

        Ok, for this first forum post, can you answer these two questions:

        1. Which of the six principles reviewed above do you find the most difficult to interpret? And why?
        2. Which ONE principle do you think might not work so well with 2nd language learners?
      • #29692
        Robert Anderson
        Participant
          @robert

          Which of the six principles reviewed above do you find the most difficult to interpret? And why?

          I wouldn’t say that they are particularly difficult to interpret, though some might provoke more of a critical response than others. The Redundancy principle claims that hearing information and seeing it at the same time increases cognitive load. It would be interesting to find out to what extent (i.e. is it significant?) and how widespread this is (i.e. in what % of the population is this the case?). The Modality principle claims that hearing information is more beneficial than reading it, though surely individual differences in learning style, personal preferences, hearing ability and level of listening skill may well mean that some people  actually find reading to be more beneficial.

           

          Which ONE principle do you think might not work so well with 2nd language learners?

          Arguably, the Modality principle would seem to be less applicable to non-native speakers, as their ability to comprehend spoken language is often likely to be lower than their ability to understand written text. Clearly this would be influenced by a number of variables related to the speakers pronunciation, such as accent, speech rate, volume etc.

          • #30034
            Brenda Allen
            Participant
              @azurial

              Which of the six principles was most difficult to interpret? And why?

              The Contiguity Principle gave some initial pause for thought.  I think this is because I was trying to visualise it, as the principle in itself is pretty fundamental. The other five seemed intuitive enough and have become more familiar since this article was written back in 2013.

              This article and accompanying research certainly illuminate the underlying reasons for my own longstanding aversion to Powerpoint and took me back to the ‘Death by Powerpoint’ video of about the same vintage. https://youtu.be/Iwpi1Lm6dFo

               

              Which one principle might not work so well with L2 learners? 

              The Redundancy Principle could present issues for L2 learners as juggling between complementary versions of the same information would be considered a higher level skill.  Although it might well also be argued that this could work wonders for paraphrasing skills.

              I would also query the sweeping statement in the Modality Principle “that hearing verbal information is more beneficial than seeing the same information presented in text form on the screen”, whilst recognising that there are many L2 learners – especially outside of an EAP context where literacy skills are paramount – who may find written text largely incomprehensible and yet have excellent listening skills.  As @robert points out, the assertion is not a given with L1 learners either. This leads to the wider point that squinting to read on a publicly shared, glaring and distant slideshow (as opposed to a close and personal sheet of paper or screen) is, by definition, never going to be an optimum reading experience for anyone in the first place.

              As an overall design principle, any visual is really only valid when it serves to assist comprehension – rather than detracting and distracting.  (Decorative considerations arguably aside.) How this is achieved will depend on a host of factors in addition to learning objectives and language level.

               

            • #30344
              Sue Everest
              Participant
                @sue

                @azurial, loved the ‘Death by Powerpoint’, which was new to me, although much of the advice was familiar.

              • #30343
                Sue Everest
                Participant
                  @sue

                  Hi @robert, I agree with what you say about the Modality principle. As EAP teachers we have to differentiate between different English levels and learning styles (possibly cultural) and need to provide information in different formats to cater for this.

              • #30081
                Robert Jackson
                Participant
                  @robj

                  Which of the six principles was most difficult to interpret? And why?

                  I agree with Brenda that it is not that the concepts are necessarily difficult to interpret but rather the way they are explained, particularly the Contiguity Principle, which in the end seems to mean ‘put a heading (assertion) and put the text/image that relates to the heading (evidence) immediately below it’. This would be better explained by a slide illustrating the concept ))) I am also struggling to visualise an example of ‘signalling’

                  Which one principle might not work so well with L2 learners?

                  I agree with Rob A and Brenda that the Modality Principle is potentially challenging for L2 learners in respect of the comment in the article about hearing rather than seeing text.

                  As regards the other assertion relating to the modality principle that, ‘images and graphics are beneficial to learning’, it is quite difficult to see how some language concepts can be represented pictorially. I agree that associating language with an image can aid retention and is quite easy to do e.g. for teaching idioms. The same is true of e.g. representing  the organisational features of an academic essay introduction with a funnel image, to give another example. However, it is difficult to see how some concepts can be represented with images, graphics, etc. Grammar ‘images’ would probably have to be arrows and highlighting and so on but in any case, still pretty much text heavy? If grammar could be represented with minimal words, I would be all for it, as I switch off whenever I read a grammar explanation in any language!

                  • #30084
                    Brenda Allen
                    Participant
                      @azurial

                      I am glad you raised the point about teaching linguistic concepts.  I had myself pondered on whether we should be confining ourselves to comparing international vs home students in a UK University environment – or whether other forms of learning and, indeed, overt language instruction should also be taken into account here. The article limits itself to engineering students but obviously has far wider implications, which would be interesting to explore. Re teaching language itself – as I consider how to approach the upcoming slide presentation, the inadequacies of attempts to present grammar in a meaningful visual form are already coming back to haunt me.  It has always astonished me how certain graphic devices – such as time lines for tenses etc – can be so illuminating for some individuals and yet leave others so totally nonplussed.

                  • #30111
                    Paul Middlemas
                    Participant
                      @paul-m

                      Which of the six principles reviewed above do you find the most difficult to interpret? And why?

                      Echoing what’s been said above, none of the principles seemed particularly troublesome to interpret. As factors to consider they are all relevant, but there will be a certain amount of subjectivity e.g. Coherence – what one teacher/student considers non-essential information may vary slightly…the Modality principle (as Rob A mentions), seems quite rigid and surely may differ from one individual to another.

                      Which ONE principle do you think might not work so well with 2nd language learners?

                      Contiguity principle; does this account for strategies such as the sequencing or recalling of information… I’m not sure whether it would be oversimplified to suggest that putting information together both physically and in time,  would lead to more successful learning, greater retention of information… In language learning there may be benefits to providing more space between information so as to strengthen ability to recall, or make connections…

                      Redundancy principle; this text is based on L1 engineering students so this principle might well differ with L2 speakers, perhaps more so if they use a different alphabet. Maybe if identical information was delivered aurally and in writing simultaneously, it could be beneficial to some learners. (In the same way that if you watch a film in a language you’re learning with subtitles, it could be easier to follow. So if a student sees instructions as well as hearing the identical information, may be beneficial for some…).

                    • #30218
                      David Read
                      Keymaster
                        @david

                        Thanks @paul-m @azurial @robj @robert for your contributions to the first proper forum (notice how I @ reply your usernames to make sure you get notified of my reply). I won’t comment on everything people have mentioned as I want others to have a chance to weigh in first. But I will confine myself to one comment at this stage…

                        It seems like the contiguity principle is posing the most problems for people. It’s not necessarily just about putting info on the same slide, but rather putting things close to each other or visually styling them that so that it’s clear what on the slide they refer to.

                        A simple example might illustrate. Look at the two pictures below and notice how the second one is easier to absorb/understand than the first. It’s not necessarily about depth of information or cluttering up a slide, more about clear relationship pointers by the use of closeness and formatting.

                        Doing this may seem obvious, but it’s amazing how often we don’t actually follow this up when designing actual slides and how we often make the students do more mental work than they need to.

                        Again, as we go through the course certain principles will seem rather obvious, yet strangely difficult for people to put into practice. I mean, take the multimedia principle as a good example. All teachers know that slides should have pictures/images to support meaning, and yet if you’ve gone to any EFL/EAP conference…what do you notice? The vast majority of presentations have reams of text on each slide and little visual support. Why do you think that is? (This is not a rhetorical question by the way, I’m genuinely interested to know what you think!).

                        • #30327
                          Brenda Allen
                          Participant
                            @azurial

                            Hi @david, I couldn’t agree more about the curious predilection for overloading slides with gratuitous text.  You asked what we think, so I would start by suggesting that this tendency persists as a wider feature of writing in general.  Graphic designers constantly lament the (human?) tendency to “over-write” and editors struggle on a daily basis to reduce the density and volume of text – thus incurring the wrath of authors who are often strangely unwilling to face the physical constraints of pre-determined formats.  It is interesting that this often seems to be less the case with, eg, sales and marketing people, whose success can literally hang on the success or otherwise of their presentation materials. Nonetheless, Steve Jobs and co were once thought to have revolutionalized the art of presentation with their minimalist approach and yet, as you remark, it is astonishing how proven bad practice prevails in many quarters.  (Not least in academia?!?)

                            I have already hit a barrier myself on this very course, which may be relevant, as I attempt to design slides for the set task in Unit 1. My issue is not that I do not understand or do not agree with the underlying design principles.  It is rather that I actually do not know HOW to physically create slides with the necessary features to demonstrate these principles. As an example, I would not know offhand how to incorporate the little arrow device you have just demonstrated so effectively in the example above.  It makes me feel like an idiot, but the fact is that I have never been taught – and I suspect many others have not either, judging by the evidence in the type of slides you allude to. Of course, all this can be discovered by osmosis or by trial and error, or by asking the right colleague (far more difficult when not in an office but stuck online at home).  However, it is easy to see why a busy academic might not feel inclined to add still further to their extensive skills portfolio and workload in this hit and miss kind of way.  On top of this, there is the fact that graphic (and other) designers undergo a long and arduous training to complement their inherent and often dazzling talents.  In my experience, it is not always realistic to assume that everyone can aspire to the levels of design we might envisage in our own mind’s eye.  “Horses for courses”, as they say in the trade!  It strikes me that, as a consequence, slides often end up being used to provide an understandable sense of security for the speaker, or as a replacement for reading source texts, rather than to illuminate the verbal content of a talk.

                            Another factor relates directly to the shortcomings of, eg, Powerpoint (as the case in point) – and I am not convinced Google slides offer much of an improvement.  As the article itself suggests, could it be that such tools are just not up to the job nowadays?!?  I say that when comparing to, eg, an everyday platform like Padlet where – despite shortcomings – so much becomes possible so easily, especially with the effortless incorporation of the full variety of multimedia.

                            The very strength of a tool like Powerpoint has resided in its ready accessibility to such a massive cross-section of the world’s population.  Can it be true that it is a lowest common denominator kind of tool, easy to use but lacking in true sophistication – resulting in a whole Microsoft generation who now think only in bullet points?  Or is it just a case of better training and deeper familiarisation? The article makes a point of referring to ‘default settings’ as the culprit.  Certainly, it often seems much easier to sketch and scrawl out a quick rough on a scrap of paper than to transfer this vision to the slide itself – which is where the good old whiteboard reigns supreme.  Please do all feel free to shout me down.  Practical tips always gratefully accepted…

                             

                             

                        • #30236
                          Naomi Rabin
                          Participant
                            @naomirabin

                            Which of the six principles reviewed above do you find the most difficult to interpret? And why?

                            Just to echo what has been said above, I didn’t find any of the principles particularly hard to understand, though I am certainly sceptical of the modality principle for the reasons @robert has outlined.

                            Although as @david has pointed out, looking at the slides I have just prepared for next week (reams of text on the slides), perhaps I should review how well I understand the multi-media theory  :cry:

                            Which ONE principle do you think might not work so well with 2nd language learners?

                            I’m not sure that the answer am about to give directly answers the question above, but I think it’s interesting that the article mentions how the default PPT structure, bullets is poor in terms of understanding hierarchy / relationships. I’m wondering, as language teachers, how often we would need to show a ‘hierarchy’ or different relationships as you would in other subjects? My PPTs /slides usually contain models of nice bits of language or instructions (eg. discussion questions) which wouldn’t necessarily have a structure.

                             

                             

                          • #30334
                            Zsofia Tarjani
                            Participant
                              @zsofit

                              Which of the six principles reviewed above do you find the most difficult to interpret? And why?

                              I’m late to the party so I don’t think I can add too much to the great ideas you have all mentioned. For me as well though, it’s not so much the interpretation but the application of the principles in my materials that the article made me think about.

                              Which ONE principle do you think might not work so well with 2nd language learners?

                              I agree with @azurial’s idea about redundancy being an issue for L2 students. In my context, where the intake level is relatively low, I’m note sure students are able to follow instructions unless it’s spelt out for them. Fair point about the paraphrasing skills but I suppose it takes a while for them to get used to it.

                              Another thing that I thought about was accessibility: I thought we were encouraged to use in-built structures and features for accessibility reasons…I wonder whether these principles apply to these accessible materials (in particular screen readers).

                            • #30345
                              Sue Everest
                              Participant
                                @sue

                                Hi all,

                                Just trying to catch up with everyone. I echo many sentiments expressed by others. I enjoyed reading the article, because I find that looking at any theoretical approach helps you to look at your own practice. I agree that with L2 students we cannot expect them to cope with aural information alone and I also wondered about how to depict grammar points visually. Thanks @david for your illustration, but like @azurial I also wondered how you introduced the nifty arrow. Just goes to show I’m on the right course here.

                                To broaden the discussion out a bit, I would like to talk about different institutions’ expectations. I mainly work for Warwick university on the pre-sessionals and OnCampus (CEG). Since March 2020 and the first lock down, when both of my employers had to provide online courses, content of teaching has been more ‘corporate’ in look for the sake of continuity. This summer, although still online, Warwick reverted back to teachers customising their own content, whereas OnCampus still provides the lesson PPTs. This means that at Warwick it is easier to apply good practice to PPTs but at OnCampus this is more difficult.

                                Another topic I wanted to raise is that students learn from our presentations in how to conduct their own. When they arrive, they seem to bring cultural pre-conceptions, which they have to unlearn in order to study at a UK university and I then suspect that they have to conform to the culturally different approaches once again when they return home to work. I wonder to what extent our good practice gets integrated internationally?

                              • #30348
                                Juliet Parfitt
                                Keymaster
                                  @juliet

                                  A few people have mentioned the modality and redundancy principles as causing problems for second language learners (@robert, @azurial, @sue, @robj, @paul-m,@naomirabin, @zsofit). One thing the article doesn’t make entirely clear with the modality principle is that it only applies when words are used with graphics, and when the graphics are the focus of the words.

                                  We process information through 2 channels: the visual/pictorial channel (the eyes) and the auditory/verbal channel (the ears), as in this diagram:

                                   

                                  If we have a picture together with a written text, both of these are processed through the eyes, which increases load because we can’t look at both at the same time.

                                   

                                  We can reduce the load on the eyes, and therefore increase processing capacity, by describing the image with speech, so that we also use the auditory/verbal processing channel, as in the first diagram above. Similarly, the aim of the redundancy principle is to avoid having 3 elements to process (spoken words, printed words, pictures).

                                  Clarke and  Mayer (2016) (E-Learning and the Science of Instruction) present these principles as recommendations to be used for guidance, rather than as rules, and also summarise some of the research that @robert asked about. They point out that the modality principle does not apply when words are used alone without graphics, and also explain that printed words should be available in certain cases, e.g. for some second language learners, when the words are unfamiliar, or even to use for future reference. I agree with @zsofit that this would also include for accessibility.


                                  @azurial
                                  we will spend the next few weeks looking at how to create the materials, but even with this, I find that it always helps to work with others for feedback and suggestions before anything goes out. Also, some of the authoring tools (e.g. Rise, Storyline) provide us with plenty of templates so that we don’t all have to become graphic designers.

                                • #30409
                                  Andrew Burke
                                  Participant
                                    @andrew

                                    Which of the six principles reviewed above do you find the most difficult to interpret? And why?
                                    All seem relatively clear.
                                    Which ONE principle do you think might not work so well with 2nd language learners?
                                    None of them struck me as not working well with 2nd language learners. Perhaps in regards to the redundancy theory, lower levels might benefit from written as well as verbal information, though what the article reminded me to do was to not expect listeners to read and listen simultaneously. I would perhaps get students to read some information on the screen and then perhaps go over it verbally; but not word for word.

                                     

                                  • #30698
                                    Jonathan Rowland
                                    Participant
                                      @jjdr

                                      Fairly simple ideas muddied and obscured by the academic wordiness.

                                      Perhaps it’s an article for academics, who can struggle to communicate information with clarity or take into account different learning styles. (Based on an admittedly limited sample of academic presentations/lectures)

                                    • #30736
                                      David Read
                                      Keymaster
                                        @david

                                        @jjdr yes, agreed, this is one of the issues I have particularly problems with, the need to give principles high falutin’ names (contiguity, coherence) when something much simpler would be helpful (closeness, simplicity), it doesn’t do anything to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners and simply keeps the two worlds apart.

                                        However, I don’t think it’s necessarily only an article for academics, as they aren’t the only ones who struggle to keep slides simple and clear for their students. During lockdown I had the opportunity to see many online lessons delivered by Primary school teachers (for my 8 year-old son) and Secondary (for my 15 year-old son) and the same issues of poorly designed slides came up again and again. Too much information, text too small, few supporting images or diagrams, poor choice of fonts/colours on an accessbility level. So, it is something that all teachers/educators need to be aware, there just needs to be a better way to communicate that than is currently done. I think the reasons why we use the same terminology on this course is simply because they have become the established terms in the literature, so it’s likely that people will meet them again and again, and we didn’t want to add more confusion by giving them alternative names.

                                      • #30740
                                        Jonathan Rowland
                                        Participant
                                          @jjdr

                                          Yes I think we’re on the same page here, and I’m sure that having an agreed terminology will be very helpful over this course.

                                          Having spent some time working with young learners and YL teachers in EFL abroad my general impression, would be that in general, and perhaps out of necessity, materials tend to be more focussed and to the point than some teaching materials produced by academics. Hence my occasional frustration.

                                        • #31357
                                          Aaron Darmudas
                                          Participant
                                            @aarond

                                            Which of the six principles reviewed above do you find the most difficult to interpret? And why?

                                            The modality principle states that hearing verbal information is more beneficial than seeing the same information in text form. This is difficult to believe, as some students can be more skilled in listening than reading or writing. Other principles seemed relatively easy to interpret.

                                            I found the article to be slightly frustrating to read as the academic incomprehensible jargon used to explain simple principles while at the same time constantly repeating the aim of the study slightly exhausting. Ironic as the article is about audience comprehension. :-(

                                            Which ONE principle do you think might not work so well with 2nd language learners?

                                            Modality again as this would also as this would imply that the level of English is the same with all leaners which I imagen to not always be the case. Robert had a similar insight that I agree with.

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