The Learning Pyramid
From previous posts you may have noticed that I’m pretty keen on getting students to work collaboratively. My experience of working with students in the classroom has born out that, for me at least, this is the most effective way to get the tykes to learn the complex stuff they need to know to pass exams as well as having an incidental but nonetheless powerful impact on their ability to be decent human beings. I’m a believer, a convert; I don’t need much convincing.
Now, I had some professional development on Friday which I had been eagerly anticipating for some time. I had an expectation of being forced to reflect on my current practice and see how much more I could be doing. I was looking forward to being pushed out of my comfort zone and trying something new.
What I got was this:
It looks plausible and it fits with my ideological stance on how I think students learn best, but one of the things I have learnt recently is to have a healthy scepticism towards this kind of neat dovetailing of what I think and the evidence base to support it. Let’s face it, I’m not the only one who been caught out by the nonsense we know as learning styles. My new found scepticism says it all looks a bit too good to be true. I mean, c’mon: all the percentages are multiples of 5. I’m no statistician, but what’s the likelihood of that?
My first port of call was the marvellous James Atherton’s Learning & Teaching website.
And guess what? It is too good to be true. The National Training Laboratories based in Bethel Maine who are cited as having conducted the research apparently have no real idea of its provenance despite having claimed to have done it sometime in the 1960s. “NTL believes it to be accurate but says that it can no longer trace the original research that supports the numbers.” Magennis and Farrell
Does this matter? Has it changed how I think I should teach or how I think students learn? No, it hasn’t. But I do wish that people responsible for training teachers were more considered about what they tout as fact. This whiffed of snake oil and I resent having the stuff palmed off on me because really, there’s no need.
If I needed it, Hattie provides plenty of evidence that we shouldn’t just talk at kids and I know from my own experience that this is not only this gruel to feed the children in my classes if I want to fatten them up with knowledge but is also an extremely effective way to turn a lively classroom into a battleground with the teacher forlornly attempting to make themselves heard against a backdrop of boredom and bad behaviour. I don’t need to be pedalled any so-called scientific research. All this does is undermine the efforts of teachers trying to drag education kicking and screaming out of the darkness and into the light.
It’s not that I think the Learning Pyramid does any harm, it just feels a bit desperate and, as Will Thalheimer says
People do NOT remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they see, 30% of what they hear, etc. That information, and similar pronouncements are fraudulent. Moreover, general statements on the effectiveness of learning methods are not credible—learning results depend on too many variables to enable such precision. Unfortunately, this bogus information has been floating around our field for decades, crafted by many different authors and presented in many different configurations
This kind of oversimplification is dangerous and stupid. There are times when it may be right to convey information in each of the ways mentioned in the pyramid and their efficacy will depend on the skill of the teacher and the receptiveness of the students, the time of day, the weather and loads of other imponderables. There’s a time and a place for everything.
Interestingly, people who deliver CPD seem quite happy to expect teachers to sit and listen for long periods. Why would they do it if they believed we would only retain 5% of what they say?