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The Mythical Retention Chart and the Corruption of Dale's Cone of Experience

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Educational Technology Volume 54, Number 6, ISSN 0013-1962


In response to the wide-scale proliferation of "the cone of learning"--a fanciful retention chart confounded with Dale's Cone of Experience--the authors make four major claims debunking this fantasy and provide documentary evidence to support these claims. The first claim is that the data in the mythical retention chart do not make sense: they clearly are not and cannot be construed as actual research findings, and, in addition, they are highly unreliable in that the percentages have been reported in dozens of permutations. Second, Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience, even in its original form, has been misinterpreted and misused as a prescriptive guide, in ways not appropriate for a descriptive schema. Third, superimposing the mythical retention data on Dale's Cone is completely unjustifiable. Fourth, both the mythical retention chart and the corrupted Dale's Cone have murky provenances. Diverse versions of these concepts can be traced at least to the early 20th century (for the retention data) and to the 1970s (for the corrupted cone). Each of the sources proclaimed by others to be the correct one for the mythical retention data and the corrupted cone are examined and proven false.


Subramony, D.P., Molenda, M., Betrus, A.K. & Thalheimer, W. (2014). The Mythical Retention Chart and the Corruption of Dale's Cone of Experience. Educational Technology, 54(6), 6-16. Retrieved December 12, 2019 from .

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