Co-presence Of Text

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Brief statement of principle

Learning from multiple related textual sources will be more robust when textual materials are presented simultaneously, allowing students to easily coordinate the sources.

Description of principle

This principle regards how to present students with multiple textual materials that regard the same topic. Simultaneous availability of the materials facilitates the creation of strong links between related knowledge components. It may also result in students spending more time with individual knowledge components, reading them multiple times.

Operational definition

When students are referring to multiple textual sources, they will show increased long-term retention when these sources are presented simultaneously than when they are presented individually.


Bauer and Koedinger are currently conducting a study to evaluate whether the presence of a notepad showing students' notes from previous pages facilitates robust learning.

Experimental support

Laboratory experiment support

Wiley found that students who were presented with an interface that required the simultaneous viewing of texts performed better on essays than students who read documents individually. Interestingly, when given the choice, students preferred to view documents individually.

In vivo experiment support

Theoretical rationale

Presenting multiple textual sources simultaneously is meant to encourage coordination processes. In Kintsch's prominent model of reading comprehension, when the multiple windows involve the same document, they would facilitate bridging inferences, strengthening the reader's textbase. If the windows present separate documents, the reader would be more likely to strengthen their situation model, creating more robust learning.

Conditions of application

This research is focused on presentation of learning materials of a mostly textual nature.

Caveats, limitations, open issues, or dissenting views

  • As of yet, empirical studies are limited to the presentation of two documents simultaneously. It is apparent that interface restrictions could make more documents intractable.

Variations (descendants)

Generalizations (ascendants)


  • Kintsch, W., Text Comprehension, Memory, and Learning American Psychologist, 1994, 49(4), 294-303
  • Wiley, J. (2001) Supporting understanding through task and browser design. Proceedings of the Twenty-third annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, (pp. 1136-1143). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.