“Learning retention rate corresponds directly to personal engagement. In the process of teaching a concept or skill to others, for instance, a person achieves an impressive 90 percent retention of that knowledge. Through the practice of doing, without the additional task of teaching, the retention rate falls somewhat to 75 percent. And the diminishing return continues from being in a discussion group (50 percent), seeing a demonstration (30 percent), an audio-visual presentation (20 percent), and, toward the bottom, reading (10 percent) and hearing a lecture (5 percent).”
This interesting information came from Inform magazine. A publication of the Institute for Applied Behavioral Science was cited as the source.
I’ve come across several variations on The Learning Pyramid previously and I am curious about its origin. The idea of it is very appealing, but its unqualified assertion that the retetnion rates of the activities listed have these precise and neatly distributed percentage figures seems just too good to be true (and by “true”, I suppose I mean something like “firmly founded on reproducable scientific observation”).
My suspicion is that The Learning Pyramid originated in somebody’s use of a quantitative description to articulate an instinctive belief (presumably based on his or her experience and maybe one or more experiments). I had a very quick dig around to see if I could trace its origin, but I didn’t have much luck. I found plenty of people referring to it unquestioningly as fact, and I found several people enthusiastically refuting it.
Apparently, The Institute for Applied Behavioral Science is part of something called The NTL Institute. One of the more revealing snippets I found was this (unfortunately slightly incomplete) quote of a response by the NTL Institute to a query from researchers Lalley and Miller (I found this via David Jones’s interesting blog post on The Learning Pyramid).
Anyway, interesting stuff – whatever the origins of the Learning Pyramid, I think I hope it’s kinda true!
Oops, sorry, I pasted the link to David Jones’s blog post wrong. Here’s the correct link:
Perhaps it was developed as a theoretical model? I’ve been traveling this weekend and didn’t have the chance to track down the original sources. As a theoretical model, it’s intriguing.
Thanks for investigating the history of the claim, Ted. I’ll add the pyramid to the blog post when I get home.