Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Conflating Education Myths

Who amongst us has not heard the magical "we remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we watch", and so on, down to "90% of what we do"...?

(and have you thought it should have had 100% of what we sing in the car for 30+ years? You would if you had experienced any of our family road-trips).

Well, dammit: it is yet another myth. Who would have thought it? All those lovely neat percentages! The worst thing is that we have bought so blindly into it for over a century. Yes, the first known evidence that a team of tireless myth-debunkers have found is in the 1913 Journal of Education, saying "We remember 2/10 of what we hear, we remember 5/10 of what we see, we remember 7/10 of what we touch, we remember 9/10 of what we do" (Subramony, Molenda, Betrus, & Thalheimer, 2014f, p. 32). This appears to have come straight from folklore, without all that bothersome detouring through research.

Ah: but have you heard it called Dale's Cone of Experience as well? If so, somehow the retention saying got conflated with the Cone. The Cone of Experience - without any percentages - was illustrated in Edgar Dale's textbook, "Audio-visual Methods in Teaching" (1954, p. 43). The Cone of Experience is the image on the far left of the image accompanying this article. At some point, someone obviously saw that Dale's Cone looked like it would be a good fit with the retention saying and put them together.  

The earliest existing evidence of the conflation of the Cone with the retention saying and a nascent inverted pyramid is Ann Bauman, in train the trainer documentation (Subramony, Molenda, Betrus, & Thalheimer, 2014f), although there is anecdotal evidence of an earlier hand.

The research done by these four scholars, Deepak Subramony, Michael Molenda, Anthony Betrus, and Will Thalheimer (of Work-Learning Research blog), has unpicked where each part - the Cone, the "10% of what we read" and the inverse pyramid of what we remember "after two weeks" - came from (2014a-f). Their investigation is systematic, careful and fascinating. Educational Technology dedicated an entire issue to their papers (list of papers below). If you get the opportunity, read the papers. I found them absorbing.

And the best part is that all three parts - retention saying, Cone, inverted pyramid - are without any research foundation. Ignore it: it is as useless as vinegar and brown paper for concussion. 

It is not even a useful aide memoire.


Sam

References:
  • Betrus, A. (n.d.). The Corruption of Dale's Cone of Experience. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/thecorruptedconeoflearning/
  • Dale, E. (1954). Audio-visual methods in teaching (revised edition). New York, USA: A Holt-Dryden Book, Henry Holt and Company.
  • Subramony, D. P., Molenda, M., Betrus, A. K., & Thalheimer, W. (2014a). Exhibits for Special Issue. Educational Technology, 54(6), 39-49.
  • Subramony, D. P., Molenda, M., Betrus, A. K., & Thalheimer, W. (2014b). Figures for Special Issue. Educational Technology, 54(6), 35-38.
  • Subramony, D. P., Molenda, M., Betrus, A. K., & Thalheimer, W. (2014c). Previous attempts to debunk the mythical retention chart and corrupted Dale's Cone. Educational Technology, 54(6), 17-21.
  • Subramony, D. P., Molenda, M., Betrus, A. K., & Thalheimer, W. (2014d). The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Bibliographic Essay on the Corrupted Cone. Educational Technology, 54(6), 22-31.
  • Subramony, D. P., Molenda, M., Betrus, A. K., & Thalheimer, W. (2014e). The Mythical Retention Chart and the Corruption of Dale's Cone of Experience. Educational Technology, 54(6), 6-16.
  • Subramony, D. P., & Molenda, M. (2014). The Mythical Retention Chart and the Corruption of Dale's Cone of Experience: Introduction to Special Issue. Educational Technology, 54(6), 3-5.
  • Subramony, D. P., Molenda, M., Betrus, A. K., & Thalheimer, W. (2014f). Timeline of the Mythical Retention Chart and Corrupted Dale's Cone. Educational Technology, 54(6), 31-34.

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