Deception and Research

Will Thalheimer in his recent post "People remember 10%, 20%...Oh Really?" comments on false information masquerading as research fact:

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, including bastardizations of Dale's Cone. The rest of this article offers more detail.

Thalheimer does a great job of tracking down the sources of this misinformation, showing that sometimes it was a result of intentional deception. As he concludes,

It will seem obvious, but each and every one of us must take responsibility for the information we transmit to ensure its integrity. More importantly, we must be actively skeptical of the information we receive. We ought to check the facts, investigate the evidence, and evaluate the research. Finally, we must continue our personal search for knowledge---for it is only with knowledge that we can validly evaluate the claims that we encounter.

Update (June 8, 2008): A recent CISCO report (via Edutopia), "Multimodal learning through media: What the research says", supports Thalheimer, concluding,

The complexity of teaching and learning becomes increasingly apparent as the physiological, cognitive, social, and emotional aspects of learning become known. The percentages related to the cone of learning were a simplistic attempt to explain very complex phenomenon. The reality is that the most effective designs for learning adapt to include a variety of media, combinations of modalities, levels of interactivity, learner characteristics, and pedagogy based on a complex set of circumstances.

In general, multimodal learning has been shown to be more effective than traditional, unimodal learning. Adding visuals to verbal (text and/or auditory) learning can result in significant gains in basic and higher-order learning. The meta-analytic findings in this report provide insights into when interactivity augments multimodal learning of moderately to complex topics, and when it is advantageous for students to work individually when learning or building automaticity with basic skills.