Does PowerPoint Help or Hinder Learning?

specsThe article reviews studies that have looked at the influence of PowerPoint on performance in the course and course grades. Most studies find that PowerPoint has “no measurable influence on course performance and minimal effect on grades.”  Yet students often report a favorable view of PowerPoint, saying it helps them with learning, content organization and note taking. The students in this cohort confirmed these positive effects.

What students in this study said they liked about PowerPoint is part of my concern. When asked to identify those features of PowerPoint they found most helpful, about 80% said the software organized lecture content and indicated which points were most important. Eighty-two percent said they “always,” “almost always, or “usually” copy the information on the slides. Does copying down content word-for-word develop the skills needed to organize material on your own? Does it expedite understanding the relationships between ideas? Does it set students up to master the material or to simply memorize it?

Like so many instructional practices, PowerPoint is not inherently good or bad. It’s all about how we use it and that’s not something about which we can afford to be complacent. Please consider this post an invitation to revisit the role of PowerPoint in teaching and learning. Yours might be an individual assessment, or it might be a conversation that explores assets, limitations and how to make the most of PowerPoint’s potential to improve teaching and promote learning.

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