Dale’s Cone of Disappointment

It’s odd how learning can affect one – at the moment I feel bereft and somewhat disconsolate after discovering the Dale’s Cone of Experience as generally represented is not all it seems. Whilst reading around the previous blog post to do with knowledge-transfer and Brown’s webcast, I wanted to reference Dale’s Cone of Experience.

Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience is an often quoted model for the effectiveness of different teaching and learning strategies – generally with percentages attached ….

Learners remember:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 50% of what they hear and see
  • 70% of what they hear, see and say
  • 90% of what they hear, see, say and do

However, whilst searching for the relevant references and citations, I found that there were none! The original model did not have these percentages and there does not seem to be a reliable origin for them 1 2 .

Indeed, Dale’s work seems to have little to do with how it is now presented.

So why is it – even though I now know that the percentages are a work of fiction that I really want it to be true – that I still believe it?

  1. Paul (2010) ‘Dale’s Cone of Learning figures Debunked’, Brain Friendly Trainer, (online) Available from: http://www.brainfriendlytrainer.com/theory/dale%E2%80%99s-cone-of-learning-figures-debunked (Accessed 22 March 2011).
  2. Thalheimer, Will (2006) ‘People remember 10%, 20%…Oh Really?’, Will at Work Learning, (online) Available from: http://www.willatworklearning.com/2006/10/people_remember.html (Accessed 30 March 2011).

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