By Paul Kirschner – Published 21 Mar 2020
In the final chapter of our book How Learning Happens: Seminal Works in Educational Psychology and What They Mean in Practice, Carl Hendrick and I briefly describe ten deadly sins of education. Giving in to sins is often tempting, but if you do you’ll be implementing evidence-UNinformed education and flying in the face of evidence. What follows is a very abridged version of that chapter.
1 The Learning Pyramid
The learning pyramid supposedly reflects the effectiveness of different forms of teaching. According to the pyramid, pupils only remember 5% of what the teacher says, 10% of what they read, 20% of an audio-visual presentation, etc. The percentages vary in different pyramids, but that’s not important. What is important is that it’s nonsense.
Why? First, there’s no basis for such percentages. Even the institution that everyone quotes (National Training Laboratories) says they don’t have data to support them. Furthermore, the pyramid is simply a corruption of Edgar Dale’s cone of experience (1954), in which he indicated how media differ along a continuum from abstract (language, letters) to concrete (direct experience). Finally, even if the percentages were correct, you can’t do anything with it. No lesson is purely one or the other and just adding these percentages up teaches us that you could learn more than 100%!
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