Can Colour Count? Does the Colour Coding of Teaching Materials Effect Technology Enhanced Learning?

Noreen A O’Sullivan, Christine Horn, Hannah Barton

IADT, Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design & Technology 

Previous research (Ray 2006) has shown that adding colour to instructional materials resulted in better academic performance in vocabulary, composition writing and reading comprehension. The focus of this undergraduate study was on the teaching of basic mathematical concepts like percentage and VAT calculations. The purpose of the study was to investigate if the colour coding of instructional materials has any effect on learning and if the effect is age dependent. Twenty nine undergraduate students (11 Male and 18 Female) aged between 18 and 52 and five older adults (4 Female and I Male, aged 55+) who lived in a residential home participated in the study. The participants were randomly assigned to an Experimental Group and a Control Group
A pre test comprising of 10 calculations was issued to assess their prior knowledge of Mathematics, followed by a 20 minute presentation teaching how to calculate VAT and percentages.  The presentation was colour coded using 5 different colours in the case of the Experimental group, and non-colour coded (white) for the Control Group.  Participants subsequently completed a post test and the effect of learning was measured by calculating the difference between post and pre test results. The conclusion is that in this instance the colour coding of teaching materials had no significant effect on learning. There were many comments and feedback from the participants about the design of instructional materials for the teaching of Mathematics which will be referred to in the poster. This study provides useful pointers for the design of e- learning technologies whereby crucial information and concepts are highlighted through the use of colour for diverse student populations like older learners and students with dyslexia. The potential applications of this study for future research involving fully e- learning technologies with diverse student groups will be discussed.