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This chapter reviews research that examines the fundamental cognitive and social processes whereby people learn to read and write. The chapter discusses three types of literate knowledge. First, literacy can be general, such as the ability to decode words or engage in drafting and revision. Second, literacy can be task-specific: learning to read a novel and learning to read a recipe require different declarative and procedural knowledge. Third, literacy can be community-specific, in which members of a community approach a given text using different cognitive and interpretive frameworks. Learning how to read and write requires many distinct cognitive components, from decoding letters to composing and interpreting texts. Literacy also requires the ability to integrate these skills within communities of practice, and these findings are aligned with sociocultural perspectives on learning in all subjects.
Extraneous processing occurs when suboptimal instructional design causes learners to engage in cognitive processing irrelevant to the instructional goal. This chapter explores five principles for reducing extraneous processing in multimedia learning: coherence, signaling, redundancy, spatial contiguity, and temporal contiguity. The coherence principle is that people learn better when extraneous information is excluded from multimedia lessons. The signaling principle is that people learn better when cues are added to highlight the organization of the essential information. The redundancy principle is that people learn better when multimedia lessons include graphics and spoken text rather than graphics, spoken text, and printed text. The spatial contiguity principle is that people learn better when words and corresponding graphics are physically integrated rather than separated. The temporal contiguity principle is that people learn better when words and corresponding graphics are presented simultaneously rather than sequentially.
The multimedia principle is that people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone. For example, a multimedia lesson consists of an animation depicting the steps in lightning formation along with concurrent narration describing the steps in the lightning formation, whereas a single-medium lesson consists of narration alone. Based on research carried out by myself and my colleagues, in 13 out of 13 tests, learners who received text and illustrations or narration and animation (dual representation group) performed better on transfer tests than did learners who received text alone or narration alone (single representation group), with a median effect size of d = 1.35.
When a multimedia lesson containing complicated material is presented at a fast pace, the result can be a form of cognitive overload called essential overload. Three multimedia design methods intended to minimize essential overload are the segmenting, pre-training, and modality principles. The segmenting principle is that people learn more deeply when a multimedia message is presented in learner-paced segments rather than as a continuous unit. The pre-training principle is that people learn more deeply from a multimedia message when they know the names and characteristics of the main concepts. The modality principle is that people learn more deeply from a multimedia message when the words are spoken rather than printed.
Generative learning involves actively making sense of the learning material by engaging in activities for organizing the material and integrating it with one’s existing knowledge. This chapter explores activities that support generative learning from multimedia lessons: verbalizing, visualizing, and enacting. Verbalizing activities involve generating words to distill key ideas (learning by summarizing) or make inferences to clarify the meaning of the material for oneself (learning by self-explaining) or for others (learning by teaching). Visualizing activities involve generating external visuospatial representations that depict physical structures (learning by drawing) or abstract relationships (learning by mapping), or internal mental images that depict the content of the lesson (learning by imagining). Enacting activities involve generating movements such as hand gestures (learning by gesturing) or object manipulations (learning by manipulating) to map abstract concepts onto meaningful actions.