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Assertion-Evidence Slides Appear to Lead to Better Comprehension and Recall of More Complex Concepts

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Rethinking PowerPoint and Other Acts of Communication

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.229.1 - 22.229.23



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Paper Authors


Joanna K. Garner Old Dominion University

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Dr. Joanna Garner is a Research Assistant Professor with The Center for Educational Partnerships at Old Dominion University, Virginia, USA. Dr. Garner holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Pennsylvania State University, USA, and masters and baccalaureate degrees in Psychology from the University of Surrey, UK. She has over a decade of experience teaching social science courses to undergraduate and graduate students. Dr. Garner's research interests center on the application of cognitive psychology to educational practices with a view to improving learning during classroom instruction and independent learning episodes. Her current research includes learning from multimedia presentations and the connection between self-regulated learning, executive functions and academic achievement.

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Michael Alley Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Michael Alley is an associate professor of engineering education in the College of Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. He teaches and conducts research on engineering presentations through the Leonhard Center. He is the author of The Craft of Scientific Presentations (Springer, 2003) and has taught workshops on scientific presentations across the United States and in Chile, Jamaica, Norway, Romania, Saudi Arabia, and Spain.

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Keri Lynn Wolfe Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Keri Wolfe is a rising senior Chemical Engineering student at the Pennsylvania State University. She is also a Leonhard Scholar and a German minor. She has been inducted to ΩXE Chemical Engineering Honors Society and ΔΦA German Honors Society. She is active in Engineering Ambassadors and the Society of Women Engineers. Keri is conducting engineering education research to fulfill her Schreyer Honors College Thesis requirement.

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Sarah E. Zappe Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Dr. Sarah Zappe is Director of Assessment and Instructional Support in the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Penn State. She holds a masters and a doctorate in educational psychology, where she specialized in applied testing and measurement. Her current research interests include the use of qualitative information, such as think-alouds, to enhance validity evidence for a test. She is also interested in developing instruments to measure engineering professional skills such as global awareness, communication, and leadership.

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Lauren Elizabeth Sawarynski

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Common-Practice Slides Lead to Better Short-Term Recall of Simple Statistics, but Assertion-Evidence Slides Lead to Better Long-Term Recall of Key IdeasPresentation slides in engineering and science are strongly influenced by MicrosoftPowerPoint’s defaults. For instance, Garner et al. found that about 40% of slides have atopic phrase headline supported solely by a bulleted list, and another 25% of slides have atopic phrase headline supported by a bulleted list and a graphic.1 Extrapolating wouldgive that about two-thirds of slides projected in science and engineering follow a topic-subtopic structure. Because slides are used so often by engineering educators tocommunicate research, to teach students, and to have students demonstrate what theyhave learned, the question arises how effective this common practice for presentationslides is and whether using a different structure makes a difference. This paper comparesstudents’ learning from a topic-subtopic presentation versus students’ learning from apresentation that follows the assertion-evidence slide structure, which theoreticallyshould be more effective both from a communication perspective2 and from a cognitivepsychology perspective.1 In the assertion-evidence structure, the heading is a succinctsentence assertion and the body of the slide supports that heading with visual evidence.2 In the experiment, 55 students viewed the topic-subtopic slides and 58 otherstudents viewed the assertion-evidence slides. The presentation, which took 6 minutes toview, explained the process of magnetic resonance imaging. Both sets of students weretested immediately after the presentation and then again about one week later. Whatdistinguishes this experiment from earlier tests of topic-subtopic slides versus assertion-evidence slides was that the script and the visual evidence for both presentations arosefrom a talk originally developed with assertion-evidence approach. In the past, the testoccurred with a talk that was originally developed with the topic-subtopic approach. Results from the test given immediately after the presentations revealed thatstudents viewing the common practice slides were more likely than students who viewedthe assertion evidence slides to recall simple statistics, such as the number of breastcancer diagnoses in 2009 (λ = 46.8, p < 0.000, df = 1). These statistics were spoken andappeared in bulleted lists on the common-practice slides, but were simply spoken in theassertion-evidence presentation. However, results from the test given one week laterrevealed that students viewing the assertion-evidence slides better remembered (λ = 63.4,p = 0.011, df = 1) key ideas such as steps in the process of magnetic resonance imaging—for example, what occurs at the atomic level in the patient’s body when the transceiveremits radio waves, and what happens when those waves are turned off. A question arises whether the common-practice learners benefitted from the scriptand the visual evidence, both of which arose from an assertion-evidence approach.Ultimately, the goal for these types of experiments is to test, in a controlled manner, howdeeply learning would occur from a presentation originally created with the common-practice approach versus the learning that would occur from a presentation originallycreated with the assertion-evidence approach.References1. Joanna Garner, Michael Alley, Allen Gaudelli, and Sarah Zappe. 2009. Common Use of PowerPoint versus Assertion-Evidence Slide Structure: a Cognitive Psychology Perspective. Technical Communication, 56 (4), 331−345.2. Michael Alley and Katherine A. Neeley (2005). Rethinking the Design of Presentation Slides: A Case for Sentence Headlines and Visual Evidence. Technical Communication, 52 (4), 417-426.

Garner, J. K., & Alley, M., & Wolfe, K. L., & Zappe, S. E., & Sawarynski, L. E. (2011, June), Assertion-Evidence Slides Appear to Lead to Better Comprehension and Recall of More Complex Concepts Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17510

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