A student of mine has a copy of an old, old edition of a logic textbook. The textbook is still in use, in a sense–but in a much newer edition.
The contrast between the two is striking. The contemporary textbook has illustrations placed all over the page, multiple columns of text, little notes and pointers on the side, boxes with separate text, and so on. The much older edition, meanwhile, reads much more straightforwardly, as in, start from the beginning and move onward to the end, reading things as they are presented from left to right, top to bottom, in the text.
The addition of section and sub-section (and sub-sub-section etc) headings is welcome IMO, as well-done headings can be a great help to students. (I like to show my College Readiness students how reading just the section headings can both teach them a lot and get them ready to learn by priming them with questions and thoughts about their own views etc.)
All the other stuff, though, I’ve always been dubious about. But I haven’t had a particularly good reason to be dubious–my reasons boil down to what feel to me, basically, like aesthetic preferences.
So there’s a GQ question here. Is there actual evidence that all the busy-ness of contemporary textbooks helps students to learn? Or is it all fluff added in so that publishers can seem forward and with-it and charge more money for different colors of ink? (This is a false dichotomy of course but you get the gist of my question, right?)