M2-Annotated Bibliography 3

Annotated Bibliography 3

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2011) Applying the Contiguity Principle. In Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E., E-learning and the science of instruction: Proven guidelines for consumers and designers of multimedia learning. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

The chapter explores what the authors described as two contiguity principles.  Contiguity Principle 1 is the idea that words should be placed near the corresponding graphic on the screen.  If this is achieved, then the authors describe the text and graphics as being “contiguous in space”.  (Clark and Mayer, 2011, p.93).   Contiguity Principle 2 is the principle that spoken words should be synchronised with corresponding graphics.  The instructional designer is advised to consider how an audio narration should be integrated with animation/video in an eLearning course.  In particular, developers are warned that when spoken words describe actions in the graphics (including animation and video), the corresponding spoken words and graphics should be presented at the same time.  The authors borrow from the world of cognitive learning theory to explain why the narration should not be separated from the graphics.  If the learner listens to a narration followed by an animation, he needs to retain the relevant words in working memory so as to match up the appropriate words with the corresponding segment of the animation. However, this cognitive overload may prevent the learner from using other cognitive processes required for deep learning.

As well as offering the reader with advice on how to present eLearning content, they also explain how eLearning content should not be presented.  Throughout the chapter, Clark and Mayer provide the reader with common violations of the contiguity principles.  However, the two contiguity principles, whereby there is no separation of two different types of media, appear to break down when the authors warn the instructional designer to avoid simultaneously displaying animations and related text. This is possibly the most puzzling part of the chapter for the reader as in this case the authors are promoting the principle of separating text and animation. However, I think that the contiguity principles apply only to graphics and text or to graphics (including animation and video) and audio, and are not applicable to text and animation/video.  The rationale for separating text and animation is that if the learner starts reading the text while the animation is playing, he will miss a certain amount of the animation.

As well as using cognitive theory to support their hypothesis for Contiguity Principle 1, the authors refer to several research studies (Mayer, Steinhoff, Bower, & Mars, 1995; Moreno & Mayer, 1999) to support their hypothesis. Clark and Mayer also refer to eye-tracking studies involving text and corresponding diagrams where successful learners read a part of the text, then search the diagram for the object being described in the text.  These studies demonstrate that this process is the then continually repeated. (Hegarty, Carpenter, & Just, 1996; Schmidt-Weigand, Kohnert, & Glowalla, 2010).  Similarly, the authors cite research evidence (Mayer & Anderson, 1991, 1992; Mayer, Moreno, Boire, & Vagge, 1999; Mayer & Sims, 1994) to support their hypothesis for Contiguity Principle 2.

In concluding the chapter, the authors present eLearning practitioners with areas that require further research.  These include questions about the amount of detail that should be included with graphics and the words as well as in what contexts spoken words should be used instead of printed words.  Clark and Mayer suggest tools and examples that the eLearning practitioner might use to put the described theory into practice.  The authors also provide the reader with a checklist that could be used in the design of eLearning lessons.  The chapter not only provides eLearning practitioners with evidence on what works best, it also considers when and how it works.


Hegarty. M., Carpenter, P.A., & Just, M.A. (1996). Diagrams in the comprehension of scientific texts. In R. Barr, M.L. Kamil, P. Mosenthal, & P.D. Pearson (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. II; pp. 641–668). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Mayer, R.E., & Anderson, R.B. (1991). Animations need narrations: An experimental test of a dual-coding hypothesis. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 484–490.

Mayer, R.E., Moreno, R., Boire, M., & Vagge, S. (1999). Maximising constructivist learning from multimedia communications by minimizing cognitive load. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 638–643.

Mayer, R.E., Steinhoff, K., Bower, G., & Mars, R. (1995). A generative theory of textbook design: Using annotated illustrations to foster meaningful learning of science text. Educational Technology Research and Development, 43, 31–43.

Moreno, R., & Mayer, R.E. (1999). Cognitive principles of multimedia learning: The role of modality and contiguity. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91, 358–368.

Schmidt-Weigand, F., Kohnert, A., & Glowalla, U. (2010b). Explaining the modality and contiguity effects: New insights from investigating students’ viewing behavior. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24, 226–237.