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For the Record: The Misinterpretation of Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience. Tony Betrus Al Januszewski SUNY Potsdam. The Authentic Cone. 1946, 1st Edition of Audiovisual Methods in Teaching 1954, 2nd Edition of Audiovisual Methods in Teaching

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For the record the misinterpretation of edgar dale s cone of experience

For the Record: The Misinterpretation of Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience

Tony Betrus

Al Januszewski

SUNY Potsdam

The authentic cone
The Authentic Cone

  • 1946, 1st Edition of Audiovisual Methods in Teaching

  • 1954, 2nd Edition of Audiovisual Methods in Teaching

  • 1969, 3rd Edition of Audiovisual Methods in Teaching

Possible misconceptions about the cone 1
Possible Misconceptions about the Cone1

Perhaps the Cone of Experience has already helped to remind you of some important ideas about communication, learning, and concept development. But like all reminders, the Cone carries the dangers of oversimplification... [do] not mistake the Cone device for an exact rank-order of learning processes. You will understand that the Cone classifies instructional messages only in terms of greater or lesser concreteness and abstractness.

1From Dale, 1969, p. 128

Possible misconceptions about the cone 2
Possible Misconceptions about the Cone2

Q Does the Cone device mean that all teaching and learning must move systematically from base to pinnacle?

A Emphatically no. As we have noted, young children use many simple abstractions-verbal symbols. Before entering school they have mastered the meanings of at least 2500 words, or verbal symbols, each one of which is an abstraction. The fact that something is an abstraction does not necessarily make it difficult to understand. Actually, there are wide variations in degree of difficulty.

2From Dale, 1969, p. 128

Possible misconceptions about the cone 3
Possible Misconceptions about the Cone3

Q Can we overemphasize the amount of direct experience that is required to learn a new concept?

AYes, this is a danger. Perhaps the new abstraction can be mastered with less firsthand experience than you might think necessary. Indeed, too much reliance on concrete experience may actually obstruct the process of meaningful generalization. Certainly a mathematician could not develop a system of higher mathematics by counting on his fingers.

3From Dale, 1969, p. 130

Possible misconceptions about the cone 4
Possible Misconceptions about the Cone4

Q Are the upper levels of the Cone for the older student and the lower ones for the child?

AIt is true that the older a person is, the more abstract his concepts are likely to be. We can explain this developmental change by a greater physical maturation, greater opportunity for vivid experiences, and (in certain circumstances) greater motivation for learning. But an older student does not live exclusively in the world of his abstract concepts, just as a child does not live only through the impressions his senses give him. The shuttling process, in fact, continues not only through the learning of a particular concept, but throughout all life. And this interaction is an indication of the nature and complexity of concepts themselves. (continued on next slide)

4From Dale, 1969, p. 130

Possible misconceptions about the cone 5
Possible Misconceptions about the Cone5

Q Are the upper levels of the Cone for the older student and the lower ones for the child?

A (Continued from previous slide)Instructional materials at all levels of the Cone can help us to extend the web of relationships that our concepts involve. Even the most advanced student, therefore, can deepen his understanding of concepts and his enjoyment of life by participating in experiences all along our Cone. … the Cone of Experience stands for activities that are available, in varying degrees, to learners in all age groups.

5From Dale, 1969, p. 132

Possible misconceptions about the cone 6
Possible Misconceptions about the Cone6

Q Does the Cone of Experience overemphasize instructional devices (the media of communication) at the expense of subject matter (the message to be communicated)?

AActually, use of the Cone may lead to an enhancement of our subject matter presentations. Indeed, the Cone may help us to choose the instructional materials that are most appropriate for the particular topic we wish to teach. The Cone can help us to understand these relationships between media and the messages they convey. It suggests, in fact, that various instructional materials differ in the degree of sensory experience they are able to provide. Our selection of instructional materials, therefore, will depend on the amount of sensory experience we wish to provide for a particular topic of our lesson. And the Cone can help us "place" a teaching method; it can help us select the way of communicating most suited to the experience we wish to convey.

6From Dale, 1969, p. 132

Possible misconceptions about the cone 7 conclusions
Possible Misconceptions about the Cone7Conclusions

Our understanding of the Cone of Experience, moreover, will remind us of a fundamental principle for our teaching: We do not use any one medium of communication in isolation. Rather, we use many instructional materials to help the student conceptualize his experience so that he can deal with it effectively. The Cone suggests that concept development can proceed from experiences with any specific instructional material. It often follows, then, that the more numerous and varied the media we employ, the richer and more secure will be the concepts we develop. Well-chosen instructional materials of various kinds can provide a variety of experiences that enhance the learning of a given subject for any student at any given point in his continuing development.

7From Dale, 1969, p. 133

Possible misconceptions about the cone 8 conclusions
Possible Misconceptions about the Cone8Conclusions

We conclude, then, that the Cone of Experience is visual model, a pictorial device that may help you to think critically about the ways in which concepts are developed. Indeed, you may now be able to apply your ideas about the relationships of interesting, meaningful experiences and abstract, highly symbolic representations.

8From Dale, 1969, p. 134

So what s the problem
So What’s The Problem?

  • Students brought to our classes handouts of “alternative” Cones of Learning with different names for levels in the Cone.

  • Internet Searches revealed “Interesting” percentages applied to the Cone.

  • They all looked “kind of the same.”

  • Did they know something we (and Dale) didn’t???

  • The following slides show examples of various Cones we have encountered:

1 computer strategies llc http www compstrategies com staffdevelopment 4cueadlearn sld002 htm
#1. Computer Strategies, LLC


San Leandro, California

Reference: Wiman and Meirhenry, 1960.

2 http www hishelpinschool com learning bloom html

  • At the next level, we find that we are reaching the place where activity and application make our use of information "real" to us. Bruce Nyland in the 1950’s studied what kinds of information people remember the most and for the longest period of time. He concluded that when students "do the real thing," "simulate" the real thing, or teach others what they have learned, the retention rate is about 90% of what was taught.

  • Note: Bruce Nyland died in 1998 at the age of 62. He was 14 years old in 1950 and 23 in 1959.

For the record the misinterpretation of edgar dale 1273302

  • #3. Crystal Kuykendall, Ed.D, J.D.

  • The Mid-Atlantic Equity Center, School of Education, The American University

  • Improving Black Student Achievement By Enhancing Student's Self Image


4 office for distributed distance learning fsu http www fsu edu ids fac2002 edgar 20dale htm
#4. Office for Distributed & Distance Learning, FSU

  • Lower levels of the cone involve the student as a participant and encourage active learning.

  • Lower levels include more stimuli and are richer with regard to natural feedback - the consequences of an action.

  • Higher levels compress information and provide more data faster for those able to process it.

  • Pictures are remembered (recalled) better than verbal propositions.

  • Pictures aid in recalling information that has been associated with them

  • Upper levels of the cone need more instructional support than lower levels.

For the record the misinterpretation of edgar dale 1273302
#5 Wallace Library Online / Distance Learning Services, RIT Marianne Bhueler 2000

No Reference Given

For the record the misinterpretation of edgar dale 1273302

#6. Oakland Unified School District Technology Learning Center's%20Cone.pdf

For the record the misinterpretation of edgar dale 1273302

#7. Pal V. Rao, Ph.D., CDP CenterDean of Library ServicesCentral Missouri State UniversityPresented at AECT99Presentation Title: “How Can Media Managers Influence Faculty to Use More IT? “

8 dr mary c rainey university of akron
#8. Dr. Mary C. Rainey, University of Akron Center


People Generally Remember                         ?**

10% of what they read.                             Read                                              Verbal Receiving

20% of what they hear.                          Hear Words

30% of what they see.                         Watch still picture

                                                        Watch moving picture                             Visual

                                                            Watch exhibit                                     Receiving

50% of what they

hear and see.                                     Watch demonstration

70% of what                                        Do a site visit.

they say or                                        Do a dramatic presentation.                     Hearing,

write.                                                                                                               Saying,

                                                                                                                        Seeing &

90% of what                                     Simulate a real experience.                        Doing

they say                                                 Do the real thing.

as they

do a


                                                        ?**                                         ?**

  Wiman and Meirhenry. (1969) contains reference to Edgar Dales's "Cone of Experience."

**Question marks refer to the unknown.

Course: 603 Family: Middle and Later Years

For the record the misinterpretation of edgar dale 1273302

#9. Center


  • The Edgar Dale Cone of Experience summarizes how learners retain information. A person remembers 10% of what they read, 20% of what they heard, 30% of what they seen and 50% of what is seen and heard.

  • This is the first only “cone” reference when searching the OSU site for “Edgar Dale.”

  • Ohio State is the Home of the Edgar Dale Media Center.

For the record the misinterpretation of edgar dale 1273302

#10. Why Choose Talk Tools? It Works Center

Studies have shown that how information is presented determines the retention level of the information. The Cone of Learning Theory, explains the likelihood of retaining information, based on the method of delivery.

When simply spoken to in a presentation we retain 30% of what is said. If this information is also presented in a visual format, our retention level of this information increases to 50%. When we also actively receive and participate in the presentation, retention increases to 70%. Finally, retention is maximized to 90% when we practice what we've learned.

Source: Dale and Nyland, 1985.

11 online inc a division of information today inc wilton connecticut
#11. Online, Inc., a Division of Information Today Inc. Wilton, Connecticut

A similar endorsement is voiced by Matthew Gale, who handles strategic product marketing for Web and interactive solutions at Discreet, the San Francisco maker of content creation solutions for video, animation, and 3D. He describes streaming media as "another way to communicate experiences, knowledge, ideas, messages, and stories. This medium allows companies to deliver compelling multimedia information across vast distances—in real time or near real time—to implementers, influencers, and decision-makers. Companies can richly communicate custom messages to all the key stakeholders while improving workforce knowledge and productivity."

As evidence of streamed multimedia's efficiency, Gale cites "classic research" published byWiman and Mierhenry in 1969. "The study found that people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they hear and see."


12 dr james m marshall
#12. Dr. James M. Marshall Wilton, Connecticut

  • From pp. 15-16

  • Researchers posit that explanations in words and pictures, as opposed to words or pictures, make for increased comprehension (Mayer, 2001) for the learner. Dale’s “Cone of Experience” (1946, 1996) provides evidence of these phenomena. Dale’s research suggested that increasing the modalities by which content was presented could increase retention rates. Wiman and Mierhenry (1969) extended Dale’s concept to conclude that people will generally remember

  • 10 percent of what they read

  • 20 percent of what they hear

  • 30 percent of what they see

  • 50 percent of what they hear and see


13 why use active learning http www acu edu cte activelearning whyuseal2 htm
#13. Why Use Active Learning? Wilton, Connecticut

  • Brought to you by the Active Learning Online team at

  • the ACU Adams Center for Teaching Excellence

  • ACU Box 29201 Abilene, TX 79699-9201

14 the initiative experiential learning resources workshops ideas articles
#14. The Initiative: Wilton, ConnecticutExperiential Learning Resources, Workshops, Ideas, Articles

  • Spring/Summer 2002

  • 10% of what we hear.

  • 15% of what we see.

  • 20% of what we both see and hear.

  • 40% of what we discuss

  • 80% of what we experience directly or practice doing.

  • 90% of what we attempt to teach others

  • Source: Brady (1989)

Let s sum it up

14 Sources:(and counting) Wilton, Connecticut

Wiman and Mierhenry, 1969

Wiman and Mierhenry, 1960

Glasser, 1990

Standard Oil of NY

Socony-Vacuum Oil Company

Dale and Nyland, 1985

Bruce Nyland, 2000

Bruce Nyland, 1950’s

Nyland/Dole, 1972

Dale Edgar

NTL Institute

James Stice, 1984 Seminar

Gustafson, 1985

Brady, 1989

Let’s Sum it Up

  • We Remember:

  • 5% Lecture

  • 10% What we read

  • 15% What we see

  • 20% Audio-Visual

  • 20% What we see and hear

  • 20% What we hear

  • 26% What we hear

  • 30% What we see

  • 30% Passive Verbal

  • 30% Demonstration

  • 40% What we discuss

  • 50% Visual Receiving

  • 50% See and hear

  • 50% Discussion Group

  • 70% Discuss with others

  • 70% Active Receiving and Participating

  • 70% Say

  • 70% Say and Write

  • 70% Say or Write

  • 70% Say as they talk

  • 75% Practice by Doing

  • 80% Experience Personally

  • 80% What we experience directly or practice doing

  • 90% Say as they do a thing

  • 90% Say and perform a task

  • 90% Teach to others/Immediate Use

  • 90% What we attempt to teach others

  • 95% of what we teach someone else

For the record the misinterpretation of edgar dale 1273302

Contact Information: Wilton, Connecticut

Tony Betrus -

Al Januszewski -

State University of New York at Potsdam

Department of Information and Communication Technology

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