There are many good resources available about how to design and use PowerPoint (PP) presentations. Rather than repeat what is easily found in other places, we would like to discuss a few ideas about PP presentations as they relate to information processing theory and principles of adult learning.

  1. Use progressive disclosure. Progressive disclosure means presenting small amounts of information rather than presenting a whole slide at once. It allows the instructor to chunk information in manageable bits so that students can learn it more easily. From the perspective of I-P theory, this allows the instructor to focus attention on what is critical. For example, on a slide with a list of bullet points, the presenter who shows one bullet at a time is using progressive disclosure. Each bullet point is a chunk of information that can be discussed on its own.
  2. Keep it simple. Avoid cluttering Power Point slides so that it is easier for students to encode the information.
  3. Communicate without words. Use graphics, photographs, and illustrations whenever possible to encode the information in new ways. But avoid using what software designers call “dancing baloney.” Research shows that too many bells and whistles can detract from learning.
  4. Use advance organizers and examples. Rather than presenting text-laden PP slides, use examples, graphics, and real-life scenarios to make your points. Variety helps students organize and encode information for storage into long-term memory.
  5. Ask the students to do something with the information presented on some slides. Use PP slides to present problems that have to be solved or to ask students to make decisions. This provides students with practice and requires them to apply what they are learning.
  6. Paraphrase the information on the slide, do not read it. This is called multi-modal communication. It uses complementary messages and dual sensory channels and gives students multiple ways of encoding the same information.

PowerPoint has become the modern day chalkboard. Like the chalkboard it can be used effectively or ineffectively. From a learning perspective, a Power Point presentation always works best if you can have the students mentally engaged.

To learn more about designing and using PowerPoint, go to the following web sites:

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