Effects of Redundancy and Paraphrasing in University Lessons: Multitasking and Cognitive Load in Written-Spoken PowerPoint Presentation

Effects of Redundancy and Paraphrasing in University Lessons: Multitasking and Cognitive Load in Written-Spoken PowerPoint Presentation

Gisella Paoletti (University of Trieste, Italy), Elena Bortolotti (University of Trieste, Italy) and Francesca Zanon (University of Udine, Italy)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/jdldc.2012070101
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This paper is about the use of a widespread teaching tool: the slide presentation used in face-to-face, system-paced university lessons. It is produced by lecturers to support students’ comprehension during listening; nevertheless it poses elaboration requests to the audience which should be taken into consideration at the planning stage and in formulating its verbal content. The paper reports the results of a survey conducted with 163 University students who were asked to listen to a lecture accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation, prepared according to the most frequent formats. The written presentation had 3 degrees of concision/redundancy: it had a fully redundant with the oral message, partially redundant (main points in key words), or had a different linguistic form (paraphrase of the message). Furthermore, information in written text and spoken message could have had the same order or they could be scrambled. The results showed that, subjectively, students judged comprehensible every kind of presentation. However, learning tests demonstrated that paraphrasing negatively affected learning, while changes in the order of presentation did not, at least in the synthetic main point – key word presentations. The study suggested that the concise, only partially redundant, presentation is the one which leads to better results, both in the ordered and in the scrambled version.
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Does Powerpoint Promote Learning?

As a starting point, it seems appropriate to analyze the point of view of teachers and learners about the usefulness of PowerPoint. From a recent study of Cantoia et al. (2011) we obtain a description of the intentions and objectives of the teachers. The sample interviewed in their survey – a group of University teachers – states that they use it with the intention of promoting the understanding of their lessons. The interviewed teachers also said to prefer concise formats, partially redundant with the spoken message, as these formats should facilitate the identification of the structure of the lesson. The aim seems to be to give a cognitive guidance, by which, according to Richard Mayer, one wants to make sure that the audience members build appropriate knowledge in their memory (Atkinson, 2004).

With regard to opinions and behaviors of students, it is possible to refer to researches showing that students prefer classes where there is a presentation with ppt compared to transparencies or absence of every presentation tool (Bartsch & Cobern, 2003; Blokszijl & Naeff, 2004). In fact they find classes which use ppt more compelling, clear and organized (Apperson, Laws & Scepansky, 2004). They also prefer when content is organized in a synthetic way with the use of graphs, diagrams and bullet points (Cantoia et al., 2011).

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