The Learning Renaissance

Communication and Learning Effectiveness – Insights and Words of Caution

I am indebted to Daniel Sobel for recounting this most valuable piece of research from Edgar Dale which has been in circulation since the late 1960s and yet which does not yet inform every teacher’s choice of method and technique when in front of students.

Together with the dynamic model of learning recording, retention and recall put forward a century ago by Ebbinghaus, they should form a copper bottom to any teaching activity.

I was desperately trying to recount the actual figures in each category and had forgotten that they are so striking!

Please bear this in mind in your lesson planning and the amount of time you allocate to student led exploration and exposition to peers.

This is one of those infographics which truly should be displayed in each classroom.

There is some debate about the accuracy of this model, which is shared by my executive editor, and refutation appears on the internet at:

The Cone of Learning Refuted

However, I know from my work in the classroom and in trying to create independent and autonomous learners that an appeal to more active elements of learning engagement is more effective in promoting learning than an assumption that all learners will obtain equal value in terms of the acquisition, retention and recall of information simply through a more passive engagement through reading exclusively.

Whether these percentages correspond precisely to the actuality is another matter.

I think it is significant that functional competence to fly an aircraft involves a hierarchy of learning which commences with book-based learning and graduates to the flight simulator and flying experience!

About educationalist04

I'm convinced we can, as a species, do much better than this if we set our minds to being much more positive and productive towards our fellow humans. The solution is learning - creating independent and autonomous learners who can problem solve, innovate and create a better more equitable and sustainable world.

3 comments on “Communication and Learning Effectiveness – Insights and Words of Caution

  1. AcEd
    June 23, 2019

    What I think is missing from this type of analysis is a timeline and frequency of ‘exposure’ to learning as well as things like motivation and engagement. I find that the best way to learn anything is to teach it! As for the terms “passive” and “active”, is reading actually “passive”? Do we not imagine, create, reflect, hypothesize etc when we read? Perhaps it says more about the text books used in learning than about the process of learning! Lastly – what is the little red triangle at the top of the cone representing? Is it more of a pyramid than a cone anyway? Sorry David, in that sort of mood today – just not feeling compliant 🙂

    • educationalist04
      June 24, 2019

      I ‘m with you on that Kev!

  2. AcEd
    June 23, 2019

    PS A good read on the topic of retention and learning is Ellen Langer –

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