A colleague mentioned me in calling out a post that was touting a myth. Which is bad enough, but as I’ve done before, I looked deeper at the post, and found more problems. It’s worth breaking down the problems, both to sensitize you to the potential problems, and provide some guidance about what’s right. So here’s a cautionary tale.
First, the post was promoting Dale’s Cone (referred to in the post as the Learning Retention Pyramid). You’ve probably seen it, saying people retain X% if they listen to a lecture, Y% if they read, … all the way to Z% if they teach others. It’s been resoundingly debunked. It is made up, Dale never added numbers, etc. So, we’re starting off on the wrong foot.
The post points to an article by an organization. As I’m wont to do, I went to the article. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t any better. It talked about the importance of looking at retention practice. That is, designing for retention; a good thing. Along with a definition were nine strategies for promoting this desirable feature. Which is where we start to go wrong.
There’s nothing wrong with an aggregation of strategies, but it helps if there’s any reason to believe this is a full and complete list, and maybe oriented by biggest impact. No, this appeared to have no rationale other than just a collection. Please, please, provide the rationale for any such collection!
Then, the very first one immediately jumped into an example that “generation Z’ would process. Ok, we’re onto myth number 2. Generations. Isn’t. A. Thing! Sigh, can we please stop thinking in terms of limiting categories.
Moreover, much of the recommendations seemed focusing on remembering information, not on applying it. Only one, “apply learning to the real world” talked at all about actually doing things. A side note: by and large, recalling information isn’t going to lead to meaningful behavior change.
Aside from some minor grammatical errors and odd statements (what does “large muscular people are dump” mean?), this seems like a random collection. It’s not that the strategies are wrong, but they’re unjustified, badly presented, and unfocused. To me, this is a cautionary tale. I would actively steer away from an org that used such marketing to promote its understanding of learning. (For the record, there’s no attribution to authorship, and though the original poster on LinkedIn was identified, they don’t appear in the ‘About’ page of the org.) Caveat emptor.