Review of Chapter 8 “Applying the Coherence Principle”

In chapter 8 “Applying the Coherence Principle,” the authors Clark and Mayer discuss the importance of adding additional text, image, and video could harm rather than help an instructional design (ISD) plan. The coherence principle simply states less is more. The added imagery and hype are not necessary and somewhat a hindrance when it pertains to instructional design. Clark and Mayer use empirical evidence to give foundation to the coherence principle. In chapter 8 three principles are given to avoid overindulging in a multimedia-rich instructional design.

Principle 1: Stay away from using unnecessary words in e-Lessons

Principle 1 is all about sticking to the basics. Minimize any temptation to tell stories or add fun facts to the targeted learning text or material. Use only the words needed to convey meaning for learning. An example of achieving principle 1 is the use of short audio snippets to reduce word usage to help keep the learner from becoming fatigued by using narratives. The cognitive theory of multimedia learning mentions the limitations of the working memory are very high (Clark and Mayer, 2016) and for this reason alone one should follow the coherence principle to reduce unnecessary text from the instructional design process. The author mentions that extraneous words should be avoided when adding text for interest, to explain a point, or providing in-depth knowledge on a topic (Clark and Mayer, 2016).  The authors give several researched examples where students learn more information without using extraneous words.  

Principle 2: Stay away from using unimportant graphics in e-Lessons

Too many graphics such as images and video clips can have a negative effect on an e-lesson by taking away from the intended purpose of learning. Although addition images and videos may be appealing, however, they do not add to or expedite the targeted learning in an e-learning environment. The coherence principle also applies to graphics the same as words, which says less is more. The authors in chapter 8 provide research evidence that shows students perform better without extraneous graphic in an e-learning environment.

Principle 3: Stay away from using pointless sounds in e-Lessons

This principle encourages users to avoid using sound in the instructional design process. An example of sound would be soft music playing in the background in an e-learning environment. Bishop, Amankwaita, and Cates completed a study in 2008 to see if sound provided deeper learning, focus and gained the learners’ attention in an e-learning environment. The experiment concluded that there was no evidence to support that sound attributed to a better learning experience (Clark and Mayer, 2016).

Throughout chapter 8, the authors provide strong evidence to support their claim to avoid using unnecessary texts, graphics, and sounds while designing e-lessons. The authors back a simple approach when using instructional design in an e-learning environment. Chapter 8 changed my personal outlook on using graphics and sounds. I was under the impression the more glitz the better. After reflecting on chapter 8, I will pursue a simpler approach when it comes to multimedia. I will embrace the coherence principle when dealing with text, images, and sound throughout the ISD project. The evidence that was presented in chapter 8 on multimedia will have a last effect on how I approach multimedia in the future. I will always remember less is more.  


Clark, R. C., Mayer, R. E. (2016). e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Proven Guidelines for Consumers and Designers of Multimedia Learning (4th ed.). [MBS Direct]. Retrieved from

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