Day 3: The teacher. What evidence-based strategies can teachers integrate into their educational practice to enhance student learning?

Post written by guest authors Alexandra Webb, Lillian Smyth and Kat Esteves, ANU Medical School.


Front page of Weitzman and Glasser's 'You can't take a balloon into the metropolitan museum'
Weitzman & Glasser, ‘You can’t take a balloon into the Metropolitan Museum’ – downloaded from Amazon.com

One of my daughter’s perennial-favourite books ‘You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum’ is composed of PICTURES ONLY…..NO WORDS! So instead of reading words, the ‘reader’ is required to use the images to create their own story to read aloud. The book contains numerous artworks from the New York Metropolitan Museum which the ‘reader’ learns about through the story. There are a number of books in the series: ‘You Can’t Take a Balloon Into the……(Boston) Museum of Fine Arts; ………(Washington) National Gallery’ giving the ‘reader’ the opportunity to transfer their knowledge and skills to new environments.  This wordless book embodies 3 evidence-based strategies recommended for teachers to integrate into their educational practice to enhance student learning.

  1. A picture really is worth a thousand words
  2. The best way to teach is to tell a story
  3. Create opportunities to apply new knowledge, skills and attitudes


A picture really is worth a thousand words

Weitzman & Glasser, ‘You can’t take a balloon into the Metropolitan Museum’ – downloaded from metmuseum.org/blogs


The cognitive theory of multimedia learning explains how people learn from images (e.g. diagrams, photographs, video, drawings) and words (printed words e.g. presentation slides, on-screen text, words in a textbook; or spoken words/narration e.g. speaker in a presentation or video) (Mayer, 2009). It is based on 3 cognitive science principles in humans:

  • Dual channels – learners have separate channels for processing
  • Limited capacity – learners process a few elements in each channel at any one time
  • Active processing – learners must engage in appropriate cognitive processing for meaningful learning


Mayer (2009) devised 3 instructional goals to help people learn and 12 principles to achieve these instructional goals. These are summarised in the Table below. Each principle contains a link to a short video that demonstrates each principle. These principles are relevant to the design and delivery of many teaching and learning activities e.g. presentations, videos, online lessons, websites, handbooks etc.


Click on each principle topic to view a short video that demonstrates each principle.

Reduce extraneous processing i.e. cognitive processing that does not serve an instructional objective.


Eliminate extraneous words, images, sounds




Highlight the organisation of essential words, images, sounds




Use images and narration not images, narration and printed words



Spatial contiguity

Place printed words next to corresponding images



Temporal contiguity

Present corresponding words and images at the same time




Manage essential processing i.e. cognitive processing aimed at representing the essential material in working memory.



Present learning using short user-paced segments not a continuous unit



Provide pre-training in key term



Use images and narration not images and printed words



Use words and images rather than words alone




Foster generative processing: cognitive processing aimed at making sense of the material.



Use conversational rather than formal narration




Use friendly human  rather than machine voice




Addition of speaker’s image is not essential


Icons downloaded from icons8.com


It is important to recognize limitations and criticisms of the cognitive theory of multimedia learning. For example, each principle shows limitations when individual learner attributes are considered and for learning in some areas (e.g. modality principle in the context of learning a second language).


For further reading about this:

Rasch, T., & Schnotz, W. (2009). Interactive and non-interactive pictures in multimedia learning environments: Effects on learning outcomes and learning efficiency. Learning and Instruction, 19, 411-422.

De Jong, T. (2010). Cognitive load theory, educational research, and instructional design: Some food for thought. Instructional Science, 38, 105-134.



How to use Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia [Examples Included]


question mark Discussion: 

Review a presentation slide, webpage, video segment or other learning material from your course. Review your material in the context of Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia. Make a list of revisions you might make to the material in order to apply these 12 principles.





Learning through storytelling is a process in which learning is structured around a narrative or story as a means of sense-making (AdvanceHE). The presentation of information contextualised within a story improves comprehension as it leads to increased emotion, engagement, empathy and motivation.

What makes storytelling effective for learning?

  • A good story can be an economical way to convey a complex topic or abstract concept in an understandable way. This can make a topic/concept more accessible and more engaging compared to a dry recital of facts.
  • Stories engage learners not just in thinking but also emotions, imagination and reactions. They can bring disparate information to life in a meaningful and connected way and teach us about the human experience.
  • Starting a teaching session/segment with a story can be a good way to gain the attention of your learners and help learners overcome any anxiety about a topic/concept.
  • Stories and facts presented within a story are thought to be more easily remembered by learners



Storytelling in Teaching and Learning – New York University

Storytime with The Met: “You Can’t take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum” 


question mark Discussion:

What experiences have you had with storytelling in teaching and learning, either as a teacher or as a student?  What role did you find the storytelling played in your learning or the learning of your students?


Transfer of Knowledge

Weitzman & Glasser, ‘You can’t take a balloon into the Museum of Fine Arts’ – downloaded from Amazon.com

Information is often learnt in one setting (e.g. classroom) and applied in another (e.g. hospital, building construction, design studio). The ability to apply knowledge, skills or attitudes in a different or new context is known as ‘transfer’ and can be quite difficult to develop. Teachers have an opportunity to help their learners to develop this ability by presenting them with graduated activities that promote transfer of knowledge. For example, activities where students practice applying knowledge/skills/attitudes in increasingly realistic settings; challenging or complex tasks that require higher-order thinking; comparative scenarios. An important component of knowledge transfer is the learner’s ability to recognise that their knowledge/skill/attitude is relevant and can be effectively used outside of its original context. Not only does transfer of knowledge help students after graduation when they enter the workforce but it also aids their current learning within and beyond the discipline they are studying.


And a final additional point…

Keep in mind that first impressions count!

Research suggests teachers and students very quickly form positive or negative opinions which tend to last. A positive first impression has been shown to lead to better student learning compared to a poor first impression. Therefore, it is recommended for teachers to start new courses or topics in a strong positive manner as it appears that the first class influences how students approach future classes.



Mayer, R. E. (2009). Multimedia learning (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

R.E. Mayer (2017) Using Multimedia for e-learning Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 33, 5 retrieved from. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcal.12197

Banister, F., & Ryan, C. (2001). Developing science concepts through storytelling. School Science Review, 83(302), pp.75 – 83

Moon, Jenny & Fowler, John. (2008). ‘There is a story to be told …’; A framework for the conception of story in higher education and professional development. Nurse education today. 28. 232-9. 10.1016/j.nedt.2007.05.001.

Flanagan, S. (2015). How does storytelling within higher education contribute to the learning experience of early years students?. The Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning, 13(2-3), 162- 184. https://doi.org/10.1921/jpts.v13i2-3.822




10 thoughts on “Day 3: The teacher. What evidence-based strategies can teachers integrate into their educational practice to enhance student learning?

  1. In terms of checking my slides, most would fail, as they have words and narration (as well as closed captions). To do otherwise seems very alien. As an example, if I was describing Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia, I would start by listing the 3 goals, numbered 1, 2, 3, in text on the screen and narrating “The first principle … the second principle …”. I have tried using pictograms for communication, but this seems more than a little pretentious and only works with a detailed narrative to explain the images. For example try working out what my approach to e-leaning is from the four pictograms linked from my name.

    ps: I found it difficult to work out from the notes what Mayer’s 12 Principles of Multimedia were. So I went back to Mayer’s work with Fiorella (2014). From this it appears that there is not a problem with the notes: some of the principles are confusingly named and appear contradictory. For example the goal “redundancy” might be better called “non-redundancy” or perhaps “complementary”. Taken literally, the suggestion to not provide text along with narration would breach the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

    Others of the principles also appear to not be clearly described, for example, Coherence in terms of “Eliminate extraneous words, images, sounds”. Coherence is about being logical and consistent, not succinct. Also the Image principle “Addition of speaker’s image is not essential” appears to contradict research which says the students benefit from seeing their instructor as a person.


    Mayer, R. E., & Fiorella, L. (2014). 12 principles for reducing extraneous processing in multimedia learning: Coherence, signaling, redundancy, spatial contiguity, and temporal contiguity principles. In The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (Vol. 279). Cambridge University Press.

    1. I have found the application of these principles very beneficial in my discipline in many different types of delivery – presentations (education and research), video, online lessons, websites etc. Especially since in my discipline, a presentation/video slide will traditionally consist of an image with millions of labels….which increases cognitive load, especially for novice learners. However, it has been time-consuming to do as it has sometimes required me to develop and create images to convey the key concept/message as there are none readily available. I provide a handout or online lesson (as pre-training 🙂 ) for any text that is ‘extraneous’ but important e.g. definitions, text of explanations of key concepts covered in the presentation or video.

      My interpretation of the principle ‘Image – addition of speaker’s image is not essential’ reflects the contradictory research in this area. It may be that there are different situations where the speaker image is effective vs not effective in the context of video. For example, a talking head explaining a complex process uses just the auditory channel – whilst a sketch (e.g. Khan-style) plus explanation uses both auditory and visual channels to deliver complementary information. Whilst for telling a story, it may be more effective to show the speaker’s face.

      I like the principles as they really challenge me to think deeply about how to optimise my student’s learning when I create educational resources.

      1. Louise, how do you go about developing images for key concepts slides and accompanying handouts? Is the effort you put in this amortized over enough students? Do you receive enough individual recognition of your effort in doing this? My worry is that preparing such material is not recognized or rewarded in the academic system. If you write a book, that gets brownie points, but course materials don’t (even if you publish them as a book).

  2. I had the privilege of some of the world’s top storytellers as teachers. These include Graeme Simsion, a data modeller, who went on write the best selling romantic comedy “The Rosie Project”. Another was project management consultant Rob Thomsett. They, and others, would hold us spellbound with first person stories of challenging projects at the major corporations of the world. I have tried to follow in their footsteps, telling my students about how I was reported live online for a hot air balloon with a Senator over Parliament House, or flew out to the US 7th Fleet in a borrowed uniform to see how the marines used the web to run a war (click on the link on my name for details). Also I have helped adopt and adapt some of the techniques from start-up culture to help teach ANU TechLauncher students give a “pitch”. These are intended to give students the sense they are training to be professionals who make things happen.

    1. Thank you for sharing Tom your experiences of storytelling as a student and teacher – sounds like you have some fabulous material to draw upon. Have you got any advice on how to craft a story when you don’t have a personal experience to convey?

  3. Louise, if someone doesn’t have experience, they should not be teaching. That said, they don’t have to have been in charge of saving the world. As an example, on Wednesday in a webinar on online assessment for teachers in Canada, I talked about how Remo Conference could be used for student teamwork exercises online. I explained that I had only seen Remo used once for this, a few days before, so my knowledge was limited. But I did have first hand experience of seeing the tool in action. Click on my name for more on Remo.

    ps: I encourage students to seek these sort of experiences beyond their coursework, so they have something interesting to tell potential employers about. Some students need a lot of prodding to understand the how and why of this.

  4. I’ve always found storytelling to be valuable for reinforcing complex grammar points in my classes. After explaining how a grammar point works and giving students short exercises to work through together to get them using it within the confines of a specific task, I’ll usually then give them a broader writing prompt and ask them to tell their own story using the grammar point in context. It’s not the first step in the process, but I’ve found it to be an essential one for getting them to use a new means of expression in a personal and creative context.

  5. Great discussions, thank you. Watching the videos on the 12 principles, I was glad to find that I follow most of these instinctively in my teaching. However, some of them seem to be a problem with the students. E.g. my slides always contained images only and I narrated them as I used animation to add relevant information to the slides. Students, who did not attend the lecture, and chose not to listen the recording but rather looking at the pdf file of my notes, complained that they don’t know what I cover or what my points are for each slide. Another problem was, that even if they listened to the lecture, they wanted to see the written words to make sure they understood what I’m pointing out. I do prepare pre-learning videos, and I found, that a written 1-page summary of the tutorial video and a list of new terms are useful.
    Not having the person in the online session, is a tricky one. While it is great that we can record our lecture in our pyjamas, I think the personal presence in a synchronous online session is an important part of keeping students engaged. (See Hybrid teaching online teaching guides). I also think about how annoying I found when students didn’t show their faces during a session, and I kept wondering if they were listening to the presentation at all. On the other hand, I’m an active presenter using my body, hand and face while telling a story or explaining s’thing to the students in the lecture theatre or in other F2F sessions. This is hard to do in front of the computer camera, but I would struggle to explain a concept purely with words. To overcome this problem, I tried to plan for what images I might need in the F2F zoom sessions, predict what students might ask or need help with, so that I’m not scrambling for images or try to do drawing on the virtual whiteboard on the fly, but of course that needed quite a bit of time to prepare.

    1. Thank you Krisztina for sharing these interesting challenges associated with students’ use of lecture recordings if they select to access limited components from the session. And also raising the issues associated with the loss of a physical presence – which impacts both lecture recordings (if screen capture only and not capturing the presenter) and online live presentations that only capture the head of the presenter. Translating active learning strategies from F2F to online during Covid has presented some similar challenges.

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