Will the Real Cone of Experience Please Stand Up?

When I was taking up Nursing, one of my professors presented us with the “Remembering Cone”.  It basically gave the percentages of how much people can remember about things they read, say, or do. It was given as an introduction to why return demonstrations were important in Nursing (we were learning how to insert IV needles).  I remember being fascinated by the numbers back then.

This week, we were introduced to Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience in my Instructional Media Resources (the current course I will be blogging about for the next three months) class.  The Cone of Experience showed how so-called learning experiences ranged from the concrete (e.g., first hand experiences called “Direct Experience”) to the abstract which often include the use of media (e.g., watching a movie or reading a book).

There are numerous websites that talked about the Cone of Experience.  On one such website, I came across an article that said that the “Remembering Cone” was also known by another name, the “Bogus Cone”.  Researching further, I found out that since Dale published his model in 1946, other people have modified it apparently without any valid evidence and passed off as factual.  Some of them became popular and were even attributed to Dale.

What was the danger here?  Passing off modified versions and adding figures would definitely make it seem that a model was based on fact.  The presence of percentages can draw people in without second thoughts.  The Bogus Cone, I realized, was the very same model that was presented to us back in Nursing School. The fact that my professor actually used it in class to motivate us meant that she, too, was hoodwinked.  The cone – and all the other bogus ones – it seems, was a very effective tool, especially in marketing.

With the amount of information that is available to us, thanks to the internet, it is easy to take everything as true.  I guess this week’s reading of Dale’s work emphasized the importance of further research and as well as of verifying of sources.  If one were to look closely, as Mike Morrison (on the Web, 2008) pointed out in his article, the numbers were far too perfectly rounded off to be factual.

The only other modification that Edgar Dale added himself to his original model was the incorporation of Jerome Bruner’s theory (Lee and Reeves, 2007).  Even then, he has always stressed that no media was better than the other nor do the upper bands of the cone indicate that abstract experiences were for the learned.  Indeed, the very fact that an individual could express herself or himself through words is already an abstract event.

References:

Lee, S. J. & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Edgar Dale: A significant contributor to the field of educational technology. In Educational Technology, 56 – 59. Available at http://ilpworldwide.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/LeeReeves07Edgar-DaleUPDATED.pdf

Morrison, M. (2008).  Dale – Cone of Experience – Misleading Quotes.  Available at https://rapidbi.com/dale-cone-of-experience-misleading-quotes/

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2 thoughts on “Will the Real Cone of Experience Please Stand Up?

  1. Hi Jewel,

    I, too, was misled with those numbers. Needless to say, we as learners and teachers should be wary in citing our own resources, and must question the reliability of a given source, regardless of where it was taken from (e.g. Wikipedia).

    You mentioned, and I quote:

    “The only other modification that Edgar Dale added himself to his original model was the incorporation of Jerome Bruner’s theory. ”

    Did Dale add Bruner’s concepts to his original model? I am rereading the modules again to check the years these concepts were published. The Cone (figure 1.5) that appears on page 12 of “Instruction Technology and Media for Learning”, is dated 1969, and Bruner’s concepts in 1966 (as cited in Smaldino, Russell, Heinich, & Molenda , 2004 pages 11-12). However, the juxtaposition of Dale’s Cone and Bruner’s concepts may have been put together (by Smaldino et al. perhaps?) because of their similarities, but there is no clear mention if it was Dale himself who added Bruner’s concepts (symbolic, iconic, & enactive). I came across a powerpoint presentation from this link: THE CONE OF EXPERIENCE
    heartsdestiny.weebly.com/uploads/1/6/8/9/…/the_cone_of_experience.pp…
    The Cone of Experience is a visual model, a pictorial device that presents bands of experience arranged according to degree of abstraction and not degree of …, that did mention Dale “overlaying Bruner’s concepts on top of his own categories” (on the 3rd edition of his textbook), but the source of the powerpoint is unverifiable. Anyway, I will do some more research from the Community College library where I work, to check more resources.

    Mariebelle 🙂

    References:
    • Dale, E. (1946). The “Cone of experience” (Chap 4). In Audio-visual methods in teaching, 37-52. New York: Dryden Press.
    • Smaldino, S. E., Russell, J.D., Heinich, R., and Molenda, M. (2004). Media, technology, and learning (Chap 1). In Instructional technology and media for learning (8th ed), 2-22. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

    • Hi Mariebelle!

      Thanks for your comment. I realized that I failed to cite my source there. I’m happy to note that I have made the necessary citations.

      The quote you referred to in my post was based on the resource by Lee and Reeves (2007) provided in the EDS 151 Module. From what I understand, Dale had revised his book Audiovisual Methods in Teaching three times, the last time was in 1969 where, according to Lee and Reeves, Dale integrated Bruner’s concepts:

      “In the last edition of Audiovisual Methods in Teaching (1969), Dale integrated Bruner’s (1966) three modes of learning into the Cone by categorizing learning experiences into three modes: enactive (i.e., learning by doing), iconic (i.e., learning through observation), and symbolic experience (i.e., learning through abstraction).” (Lee and Reeves, 2007).

      I hope this clears up things! Thanks again! :)

      Lee, S. J. & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Edgar Dale: A significant contributor to the field of educational technology. In Educational Technology, 56 – 59. Available at http://ilpworldwide.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/LeeReeves07Edgar-DaleUPDATED.pdf

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