Some Considerations for Visual Presentations

This is a first for me, so let’s see how it works and we’ll go from there…

First, a basic introduction.  I have been working as a GET in the Korean education system for approximately 2 and a half years.  The first two were at a High School in an orphanage, and currently I am working at a middle school in Busan.

These days I’m focusing more closely on my visual presentation, and that means greater considerations of the often maligned powerpoint.  While it is easy to critique an over-reliance on powerpoint presentations, I feel they fit with my current environment for a variety of reasons:

a)      There is research, though controversial (See Clark, et al. 2010), that Koreans have a visual learning bias (see Oxford, 2001).

b)      Students have been accustomed to this mode of presentation.

c)       A more detailed powerpoint probably scores a few brownie points with our Korean co-teachers.

Of course, attention to this aspect of teaching is but a small piece of the puzzle for successful teaching, nevertheless I feel it is a significant one.

During the summer vacation, I had the opportunity to go over two books relevant to the subject at hand.  I readily recommend Ruth Clark and Cloetta Lyons’ Graphics for Learning and Ruth Clark, Frank Nguyen, and John Sweller’s Efficiency in Learning.  Anyhow, here are some of the major tweaks I made to my PPTs after going through these materials:

a)      Add Learning Tabs.  A learning tab would be a small graphic display (i.e. a logo, or a picture) in the upper right corner of the screen.  The function is to remind the learner of their place in the lesson.

b)      Include a Learning Agent.  A learning agent is some character, human or otherwise in the bottom corner of the screen.  It may seem difficult to believe, but Clark, et al (2010) provide plenty of evidence that including a learning agent can increase learning.

c)       Exploit Proximity to Aid Comprehension.  After explaining the basics of the target language focus I demonstrate the TL item through word bubbles.  After the second example, I begin to fade the bubbles (i.e bubbles, with no text, then I remove the bubbles entirely) and ask students recall questions to ensure they have a basic comprehension of the key points.



d)      Cut Down on Distracting Data and Graphics.  Clark, et al. mention “seductive details.”  What they mean is added visuals or sounds, or whatever intended to heighten learner motivation.  They argue, rather compellingly, that such extraneous details—in their words—depress learning.  Their advice is that if it doesn’t contribute to learning, then it should be eliminated.  I’m a little hesitant to adopt such advice whole-heartedly for a middle school environment.  Clark, et al. make the recommendation to focus on “cognitive  motivation” as opposed to “emotional motivation.”  They make the case, not entirely convincing in my estimation—at least for the lower grades, that if cognitive motivation is enhanced, the need for emotional motivation wanes.  Nevertheless, I concur that a more efficient approach (meaning everything done during instruction is designed to contribute to learning) towards visual design should heighten student learning.

e)      Make More Graphic Representations of Key Ideas.  This is a no-brainer.  Presenting ideas schematically helps learners focus on the key ideas; it should make the main points more comprehensible for learners even if they are lower level learners.  Recently I have started to make a rather simple graphic organizer for every TL item I address during my lessons. 




In closing, I want ask what do you do in your classroom in reference to visual presentation?  Do you have any critiques for me?

Thanks for reading.

**Sorry, this is my first post, and I wasn’t able to upload powerpoint images just yet.  If anyone would like to see examples, send me an e-mail:…Cheers!


Clark, R.C., & Lyons, C. (2004).  Graphics for Learning.  San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer

Clark, R.C., Nguyen, Frank, & Sweller, John (2010).  Efficiency in Learning.  San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

Oxford, Rebecca (2001).  “Learning Styles.” In (ed.) Celce-Murcia, Marianne.  Teaching English as a Second or Foreign Language (3rd edition).  Boston: Cengage Learning



About cmiller112

Teacher, Father, Jogger, Sleeper, Husband, (add extra label here)
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2 Responses to Some Considerations for Visual Presentations

  1. Hi cmiller112,
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on powerpoint. I’m a teacher in Korea (not in a public school) who rarely uses powerpoint presentations. My school only has a projector in one room and there is little opportunity. Still, I think your tips can help me improve my slides and increase students’ attention.

    I have a question: have you found, after implementing the things you learned from your research, that your students do indeed respond better to your teaching style? What were their reactions?

    Thank you again for your interesting and thought-provoking post.

    • cmiller112 says:

      It’s difficult to say, but I feel I have increased student responsiveness, for example, at my current school my teachers have suggested I spend two weeks on one lesson, so during the second week, as a form of review, I show much of the same slides, i.e. information detailing the grammer, et al, except for i’ll do it in a “cloze” format. Students are much less likely to tune me out and they tend to respond to the missing blanks, almost automatically. Definitely when I do “fading” with the speech bubbles (i.e data which details TL item info in a speech bubble next to a worked example), many students respond when I ask them to supply the missing information. So it serves as a way for me to get a quick check on basic comprehension. Hope that answered your question. Thanks for the comment.

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