clark-kozma-debate.pngWhether or not media influence learning?

Just a brief terminology before we start;

An instructional method is any way to shape information that activates, supplants or compensates for the cognitive processes necessary for achievement or motivation (Salomon, 1979).

Media is the plural of medium, which in learning and training environments, is the means of communicating and transferring a learning concept or objective to another individual. Media are the replicable “means”, forms, or vehicles by which instruction is formatted, stored, and delivered to the learner (Schwen, 1977).

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It all started when Clark (1983) published the results of a meta-analysis which investigated the influence of media on learning and claimed that media are only vehicles that deliver instruction; they do not influence student learning, success or engagement under any circumstances.


In 1983, Clark was brave enough to suggest that researchers give up on exploring the relationship between media and learning unless new theories are suggested (Clark, 1983).

In 1991, Kozma showed up proposing a new theory outlining the relation between media, content, and the interaction of the learner with that environment (Kozma, 1991).


Later Clark (1994) used Salomon’s reasoning to try out his “replaceability” test “if no single media attribute served a unique cognitive effect, then the media attribute must be a substitute for a replaceable variable that is responsible for the learning gains” (p.22). Clark decided that if the media or media attributes could be replaced without any differences in learning outcome, then the success is not due to the media, but to instructional method.


Kozma responded to Clark’s claim by agreeing that media doesn’t influence learning, yet he added that “if we can find a relationship between media and learning then we will be able to see how technology influences learning” (Kozma, 1994, p. 8).


Clark stuck to his original opinion and claimed that “technology not only does not influence learning, but it will never influence learning, and that media is neither sufficient for nor necessary to learning” (Clark, 1994, p.23).


It was time for Kozma to reply back to Clark. In 1994, he paraphrased Clark’s original statement ‘Does media influence learning?’ with “Will media influence learning?” Kozma believed that Clark didn’t think media influences learning because he had not yet found a relationship between media and learning. Kozma said that if we do not strive to understand the potential relationship between media and learning, then one will never be made and we are unlikely to ever understand the prospective for such a relationship (Kozma, 1994).


♦ The original question has not been answered ♦


Whose side would you be on in this famous debate between Clark and Kozma?

Do media influence learning?

This debate started almost 33 years ago when fewer people had computers let alone the Internet connection that is available today. How can we reframe it in 21st century?



Clark, R. E. (1983). Reconsidering Research on Learning from Media. Review of EducationalResearch, 53(4), 445-459.

Clark, R. E. (1994). Media will never influence learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 42(1), 21-29.

Kozma, R. B. (1991). Learning with Media. Review of Educational Research, 61(2), 179-211.

Kozma, R. B. (1994). The Influence of Media on Learning: The Debate Continues. School Library Media Research SLMQ 22(4).