• Question: Based on your research is there any particular way of presenting information in the classroom which makes it 'easier' for the students to learn/remember it. I'm primarily thinking about PowerPoint slides. e.g. a colour background, a font size, a font setting, should there be pictures, how much info, is a consistent layout useful or are they more likely to take it in if you change the layout regularly?

    Asked by bowesn to Yana, Paul on 20 Jan 2018.
    • Photo: Paul Matusz

      Paul Matusz answered on 20 Jan 2018:

      Hi, that’s a good question. From more laboratory-based experiments, findings point to information being recalled better if the encoding and recall context (everything related to the “background” of the learning – from veridical background on which the information is presented through the environment to the state you are in) are the same. However, it seems that presenting information matching that currently learnt, and here we could make parallels with the idea of familiarity as scaffolding for learning, across multiple senses. Here is one latest review from our group altho it may be paywalled – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002839321730129X. Using naturalistic object stimuli, like tools and animals in an old/new (“have you seen this object already or not?”), we showed that if initial presentations of these objects are accompanied by matching information in the other, task-unimportant sense (for task involving images – sounds, and vice versa), their recall is better than for those objects taht were only presented in one sense alone (ie. matching in their “context”). We are currently collecting some interesting data on the effect of public vs private (eg. Montessori) schooling on these processes in children. There is some published work in multisensory benefits in learning in kids – with a slightly different task – using multiple stimulus combinations – pictures presented with sounds, for sounds presented with pictures, for spoken words presented with pictures and for written words presented with spoken words – e.g. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00221-015-4341-6 (this one seems to be paywalled too but you can perhaps write to the authors), but it certainly needs to be replicated before drawing any strong conclusions.
      Overall, I believe including too much information (eg. per slide) within one sense is difficult to parse into memorisable chunks and so bad for learning; presenting some information a) using familiar, known concepts and objects, b) in chunks, c) with clear overarching structure (this came up in one of our livechats), and d) with the information being redundant across the senses could support effective learning.

      I hope this answer helps.