Monday, February 1, 2021

PowerPoint at the Psychonomic Society II: Do Students Learn More From Text or Images?

The Impact of Multi-Media Presentation Format: Student Perceptions and Learning Outcomes by Katherine Moen, University of Nebraska Kearney  (Note: This is the second post in a series of PowerPoint-related presentations from the Psychonomic 2020 meeting.)

An important issue for educators is the value of text vs. images in PowerPoint presentations. Do people learn best from words or images? How many words are too many words? Academic PowerPoint presentations tend to be text-heavy. On the other hand, images may be information-rich ('a picture is worth a thousand words') in ways that add a visual-spatial component to the spoken presentation. 

This in-class study compared students who received standard PowerPoint slides (text plus small images) to student who received slides that were mostly images. The picture-based group had a small (about 5%) increase in exam scores. Student interest and engagement was about the same in both groups. 

Commentary: This is a good illustration of how information-rich instructional graphics can be superior to text-focused slides. The results are consistent with Mayer's redundancy principle: Providing text on the slide that is essentially the same as the spoken presentation does not facilitate learning. Perhaps image-based slides require students to pay more attention to the spoken presentation, which then benefits learning. When the PowerPoint is mostly images, students could be more actively engaged or processing the lecture deeper than simply copying information from slides.