Hi M.E.!

I understand the issue regarding percentages with Dale's Cone of Learning and, still, I continue to use this model (albeit modified) in class and workshops for one essential reason: it's an effective visual metaphor to help introduce the different learning modalities AND the benefits of using them. The Cone of Learning fits nicely into the topic of learning style **preferences** and an introspective discussion on the whys behind those preferences. 

First, I use a Cone of Learning image that does not depict percentages. (There are plenty on the internet from which to choose.) Second--and most importantly--when I introduce the Cone of Learning, I tell students the objective of the visual is NOT intended to place value on one learning modality over another. I also stress the shape of the cone is NOT related to comprehension, rather the degree or levels of learning experience when you **combine** and **engage** a series of learning modalities (read practice). In my Vanna White mode, I move from the top of the cone down toward the bottom (uni-modal to multi-modal), talking about an increase in learning with the more senses engaged. I use popular themes to guide the discussion. For example, we live in Texas, so I ask students to explain how to barbeque Texas-style (a learning scenario). Their descriptions always include references to their sense of touch, smell, taste, movement....  They remember and describe family reunions, kitchen scenes, hot grills, taste tests, cook-offs, and specific ingredients. The students know Texas BBQ because it's something they've been doing since they were knee high--they've had a lot of practice.

I also point out that college has a lot of lecture and students have to do a tremendous amount of listening which, by the way, is at the top of the cone and uni-modal. I stress that no matter how hard you listen, if hearing is your only engaged learning modality, you will not comprehend very much, no matter how fascinating the lecture, because it's the one and only time you've experienced the material.  With everything else going on in your life (multiple lectures, labs, readings, work, family commitments, etc.), it's highly unlikely you will remember much from that one lecture if all you do is listen. 

If, however, you read the assigned chapter before the lecture, take notes during the lecture, talk about the lecture after class, research a question or particular point from the lecture, and--you fill in the rest--you are actively applying different senses/different modalities to the learning experience. You are practicing. At the end of class I stress that if you take one thing from today's lesson, it should be that all of the learning modalities are indeed essential learning tools; however, used singularly (or unilaterally) they are not nearly as effective as when used in combination with other learning modalities, other senses. 


Sara Weertz
Executive Director, First Year Experience Program 
Angelo State University
Member, Texas Tech University System
ASU Station #11004
San Angelo, TX  76909
(325) 942-2595  X-387
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