Tuesday, October 12, 2010
EDGAR DALE'S CONE OF EXPERIENCE
EDGAR DALE
Edgar Dale (April 27, 1900 – March 8, 1985) was a U.S...
The original labels for Dale‘s ten categories are: Direct, Purposeful
Experiences; Contrived Experiences; Dramatic Partici...
arranged in the order of increasing abstractness as one proceeds from direct
experiences."
Dale made minor modifications o...
DRAFT
Submitted for publication in A. Kovalchick & K. Dawson, Ed's, Educational
Technology: An
Encyclopedia. Copyright ABC...
Inasmuch as the Cone provided the organizing principle for the book, it became
ingrained in the
thinking of generations of...
combinations of concrete and abstract experiences: ―Abstractions must be
combined, if we are 3
to have rich, full, deep, a...
construct to prescriptions, as pointed out by Subramony (in press). References to
―uses‖ or
―implications‖ of the Cone are...
(concrete to abstract) then trace up to the slope line and then horizontally over to
the visual
medium that intersects at ...
learning task, and the content being remembered (p. 10). Despite the lack of
credibility, this
formulation is widely quote...
the cone, the greater the learning and the more information is likely to be retained. It also suggests that
when
choosing ...
and should be used, depending on the needs of the
learner.
How should the Cone be interpreted?
The figure above shows what...
As stated above, the
Cone should not be
interpreted as indicating
that teachers shouldn’t
make use of reading,
listening, ...
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  1. 1. Tuesday, October 12, 2010 EDGAR DALE'S CONE OF EXPERIENCE EDGAR DALE Edgar Dale (April 27, 1900 – March 8, 1985) was a U.S. educationist who developed the famous Cone of Experience. He made several contributions to audio and visual instruction, including a methodology for analyzing the content of motion pictures Dale was a professor of education at Ohio State University. In 1933 Dale wrote a paper on how to effectively create a High School film appreciation class. This paper has been noted for having a very different view of adolescent interaction with films than that taken by the Film Control Boards of the time. CONE OF EXPERIENCE Introduced by Edgar Dale (1946) in his textbook on audiovisual methods in teaching, the Cone of Experience is a visual device meant to summarize Dale‘s classification system for the varied types of mediated learning experiences. The organizing principle of the Cone was a progression from most concrete experiences (at the bottom of the cone) to most abstract (at the top).
  2. 2. The original labels for Dale‘s ten categories are: Direct, Purposeful Experiences; Contrived Experiences; Dramatic Participation; Demonstrations; Field Trips; Exhibits; Motion Pictures; Radio – Recordings – Still Pictures; Visual Symbols; and Verbal Symbols. When Dale researched learning and teaching methods he found that much of what we found to be true of direct and indirect (and of concrete and abstract) experience could be summarised in a pyramid or 'pictorial device' Dales called 'the Cone of Experience'. In his book 'Audio visual methods in teaching' - 1957, he stated that the cone was not offered as a perfect or mechanically flawless picture to be taken absolutely literally. It was merely designed as a visual aid to help explain the interrelationships of the various types of audio-visual materials, as well as their individual 'positions' in the learning process. Dale points out that it would be a dangerous mistake to regard the bands on the cone as rigid, inflexible divisions. He said "The cone device is a visual metaphor of learning experiences, in which the various types of audio-visual materials are
  3. 3. arranged in the order of increasing abstractness as one proceeds from direct experiences." Dale made minor modifications of the visual in the second edition (1954), changing Dramatic Participation to Dramatized Experiences and adding Television. By the third edition of the textbook, Dale (1969) acknowledged the growing popularity of Jerome Bruner‘s (1966) cognitive psychology concepts by overlaying Bruner‘s classification system for modes of learning— enactive, iconic, and symbolic—on top of his own categories. This adaptation of his own schema may have been portentous, perhaps giving implied license to others to make other creative adaptations and interpretations, not always to the credit of Dale‘s original notion. Dale‘s textbook in its three editions remained popular for over a quarter century. Inasmuch as the Cone provided the organizing principle for the book, it became ingrained in the thinking of generations of educational technology students and professors who used the textbook. It stimulated many efforts to extend the original idea by developing its implications for elementary education, secondary education, adult education, corporate training, and even counseling. AN EXAMPLE Educational field trips are most of the common strategies used by educators to enrich student learning. To see a sample video, please click this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6BiBwOvxxo In summary, the Cone of Experience is essentially a visual metaphor for the idea that learning activities can be placed in broad categories based on the extent to which they convey the concrete referents of real-life experiences. Although it has sometimes been interpreted as advocating the selection of certain media and methods over others (favoring ―realism‖), such was not Dale‘s stated intent. It has also been interpreted by many as a prescriptive formula for selecting instructional media. Dale‘s own explanations are nebulous enough to enable a wide variety of interpretations to find support. Finally, there is the contemporary problem of the conflation of the Cone with the ―Socony-Vacuum percentages.‖ The fact that the Cone has been taken seriously enough to be used in so many ways testifies to the robustness and attractiveness of Dale‘s visual metaphor. Cone of Experience Michael Molenda Indiana University
  4. 4. DRAFT Submitted for publication in A. Kovalchick & K. Dawson, Ed's, Educational Technology: An Encyclopedia. Copyright ABC-Clio, Santa Barbara, CA, 2003. This version includes only the text of the article. The figures are found in the published version. Introduced by Edgar Dale (1946) in his textbook on audiovisual methods in teaching, the Cone of Experience is a visual device meant to summarize Dale‘s classification system for the varied types of mediated learning experiences. The organizing principle of the Cone was a progression from most concrete experiences (at the bottom of the cone) to most abstract (at the top). The original labels for Dale‘s ten categories are: Direct, Purposeful Experiences; Contrived Experiences; Dramatic Participation; Demonstrations; Field Trips; Exhibits; Motion Pictures; Radio – Recordings – Still Pictures; Visual Symbols; and Verbal Symbols. [Insert Figure 1 here.] Dale made minor modifications of the visual in the second edition (1954), changing Dramatic Participation to Dramatized Experiences and adding Television. By the third edition of the textbook, Dale (1969) acknowledged the growing popularity of Jerome Bruner‘s (1966) cognitive psychology concepts by overlaying Bruner‘s classification system for modes of learning—enactive, iconic, and symbolic—on top of his own categories. This adaptation of his own schema may have been portentous, perhaps giving implied license to others to make other creative adaptations and interpretations, not always to the credit of Dale‘s original notion. Application of the construct2 Dale‘s textbook in its three editions remained popular for over a quarter century.
  5. 5. Inasmuch as the Cone provided the organizing principle for the book, it became ingrained in the thinking of generations of educational technology students and professors who used the textbook. It stimulated many efforts to extend the original idea by developing its implications for elementary education, secondary education, adult education, corporate training, and even counseling. As a visible leader in audiovisual education, Dale and his work had a great deal of authority within the field. The Cone may be regarded as the earliest highly influential conceptual schema in the field. Dwyer (1978) in his landmark work on visual learning credits Dale as one of the thinkers who inspired the visual education movement: An explanation for the current widespread use of visualization can be traced back to the 1940s and 1950s when a number of theoretical orientations were identified—specifically the iconicity theory identified by Morris (1946) [and] Dale‘s (1946) cone of experience… (p. 6) Dale‘s own claims for this classification system were modest and qualified. He advised against viewing the categories as ―rigid, inflexible divisions (p. 37).‖ He insisted that the classifications should not be regarded as any sort of ―hierarchy or rank order (p. 47).‖ This addresses one of the most prevalent misconceptions of the Cone—that the progression from concrete to abstract represented a value judgment about concrete over abstract learning activities. Instead, Dale advocated the use of whatever methods or media were appropriate for the learner and the task, acknowledging that words can be a powerful and efficient means of conveying ideas even for the youngest children. If he had a bias regarding media it was toward rich
  6. 6. combinations of concrete and abstract experiences: ―Abstractions must be combined, if we are 3 to have rich, full, deep, and broad experience and understanding. In brief, we ought to use all the ways of experiencing that we can (p. 48).‖ Because many of those who referred to the Cone were advocates for specific media or for audiovisual media in general, they had a tendency to selectively emphasize those parts of Dale‘s work that supported their claims. Thus by the time of the third edition of Audiovisual Methods in Teaching (1969) Dale found it necessary to devote six pages of the chapter on the Cone to ―Some Possible Misconceptions (pp. 128-134).‖ At the core of the misconceptions are the notions that the value of an activity increases with its realism and that the learner‘s understanding grows by beginning with direct experience and progressing to increasingly abstract activities. One explanation for the prevalence of other interpretations of the Cone is that Dale did not explicitly draw the distinction between a descriptive construct and a prescriptive theory. He surely intended the Cone to be descriptive—a classification system—and not prescriptive—a road map for lesson planning. He came close to drawing this distinction when he stated in the Summary of his chapter on the Cone: ―The cone, of course, is merely an aid to understanding this subject…something to help explain the relationship of the various types of sensory materials...(p. 52).‖ The key words are ―understand‖ and ―explain.‖ These words indicate a descriptive purpose, not a prescriptive one. On the other hand, Dale himself sometimes fell prey to the urge to extend the descriptive
  7. 7. construct to prescriptions, as pointed out by Subramony (in press). References to ―uses‖ or ―implications‖ of the Cone are scattered throughout the various editions of Dale‘s textbook (Dale 1946, 1954, 1969). An example found in the third edition (1969) states ―When properly understood and used, however, the Cone can be a helpful and practical guide (p. 110).‖ With 4 this sort of ambiguity from the author, it is not surprising that many of his followers attempted to use the Cone as a prescriptive guide to lesson planning. Origins of the Cone‘s concepts Ideas parallel to those expressed by Dale in the Cone of Experience appeared in the literature of education prior to 1946. Paul Saettler (1990), the historian of the field of instructional technology, points to Exposition and Illustration in Teaching, published in 1910 by John Adams ―which included the following ‗order of merit‘ concerning concreteness: ‗(1) the real object, for which anything else is a more or less inefficient substitute; (2) a model of the real object; (3) a diagram dealing with some of the aspects of the object; and (4) a mere verbal description of the object.‘ (p. 140). However, a more direct ancestor of the Cone is probably a diagram presented by Hoban, Hoban, and Zisman (1937). [Insert Figure 2 here.] They made the conceptual breakthrough of constructing a graph in which visual media are arranged along the y axis while the learner‘s level of development—from the concrete level of thinking to the abstract level of thinking—is arrayed along the x axis. In applying the graph to a particular case, one would locate the learner‘s current level of conceptual development
  8. 8. (concrete to abstract) then trace up to the slope line and then horizontally over to the visual medium that intersects at the same point. For example, an experienced learner with a highly developed (abstract) knowledge of ―jet propulsion‖ would be expected to be able to learn more about jet propulsion effectively with diagrams and verbal texts. Hoban, Hoban, and Zisman‘s categories were: total situation, objects, models, films, stereographs, slides, flat pictures, maps, diagrams, and words. Dale‘s schema differs mainly in the addition of several classes of media and active learning experiences and the simplification of 5 the schema by showing only y axis—the media, indicating the other dimension (concreteabstract) by the pyramidal shape of the cone. Although Dale‘s schema appears to be quite derivative of Hoban, Hoban, and Zisman‘s graph, he does not explicitly acknowledge this source, although he makes several references to their book elsewhere in his textbook. Misappropriation of the Cone It is important to discuss what the Cone is not as well as what it is because of a widespread misrepresentation that has become ubiquitous in recent years. At some point someone conflated Dale‘s Cone with a spurious chart that purports to show what percentage of information people remember under different learning conditions. The original version of this chart, shown in Figure 3, has been traced to the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, according to Dwyer (1978), who cites Treichler (1967). [Insert Figure 3 here.] As Dwyer points out, the reported percentages are impossible to interpret or verify without specifying at least the method of measurement, the age of the learners, the type of
  9. 9. learning task, and the content being remembered (p. 10). Despite the lack of credibility, this formulation is widely quoted, usually without attribution, and in recent years has become repeatedly conflated with Dale‘s Cone, with the percentage statements superimposed on the cone, replacing or supplementing Dale‘s original categories. The examples are too numerous to document here, but are discussed in detail and with citations in Subramony (in press). A rather sophisticated example of this conflation is shown as Figure 4. [Insert Figure 4 here.] In summary, the Cone of Experience is essentially a visual metaphor for the idea that learning activities can be placed in broad categories based on the extent to which they convey the 6 concrete referents of real-life experiences. Although it has sometimes been interpreted as advocating the selection of certain media and methods over others (favoring ―realism‖), such was not Dale‘s stated intent. How Can Instructors Use the Cone of Experience? According to Dale’s research, the least effective method at the top, involves learning from information presented through verbal symbols, i.e., listening to spoken words. The most effective methods at the bottom, involves direct, purposeful learning experiences, such as hands-on or field experience. Direct purposeful experiences represents reality or the closet things to real, everyday life. The cone charts the average retention rate for various methods of teaching. The further you progress down
  10. 10. the cone, the greater the learning and the more information is likely to be retained. It also suggests that when choosing an instructional method it is important to remember that involving students in the process strengthens knowledge retention. It reveals that “action-learning” techniques result in up to 90% retention. People learn best when they use perceptual learning styles. Perceptual learning styles are sensory based. The more sensory channels possible in interacting with a resource, the better chance that many students can learn from it. According to Dale, instructors should design instructional activities that build upon more real-life experiences. Dales’ cone of experience is a tool to help instructors make decisions about resources and activities. The instructor can ask the following: • Where will the student’s experience with this instructional resource fit on the cone? How far is it removed from real-life? • What kind of learning experience do you want to provide in the classroom? • How does this instructional resource augment the information supplied by the textbook? • What and how many senses can students use to learn this instructional material? • Does the instructional material enhance learning? What is Dale’s Cone of Experience? The Cone was originally developed by Edgar Dale in 1946 and was intended as a way to describe various learning experiences. The diagram presented to the right (Raymond S. Pastore, Ph.D) is a modification of Dale’s original Cone; the percentages given relate to how much people remember and is a recent modification. Essentially, the Cone shows the progression of experiences from the most concrete (at the bottom of the cone) to the most abstract (at the top of the cone). It is important to note that Dale never intended the Cone to depict a value judgment of experiences; in other words, his argument was not that more concrete experiences were better than more abstract ones. Dale believed that any and all of the approaches could
  11. 11. and should be used, depending on the needs of the learner. How should the Cone be interpreted? The figure above shows what students will be able to do at each level of the Cone (the learning outcomes they will be able to achieve) relative to the type of activity they are doing (reading, hearing, viewing images, etc.). The numerical figures on the left side of the image, what people will generally remember, indicate that practical, hands-on experience in a real-life context will allow students to remember best what they do. Again, it is important to remember that this doesn’t mean reading and listening are not valuable learning experiences, simply that “doing the real thing” can lead to the retention of the largest amount of information. This is in part because those experiences near the bottom of the Cone, closer to and including real-world experiences, make use of more of our senses; it is believed that the more senses that are used, the greater our ability to learn from and remember an event or experience. back to top How can Dale’s Cone be used to enhance SL learning?
  12. 12. As stated above, the Cone should not be interpreted as indicating that teachers shouldn’t make use of reading, listening, viewing experiences and the like. These are all valuable and important parts of learning a second language and all have a place in the B- SLIM model. What should be taken from reviewing Dale’s Cone of Experience is that experiences at ALL of the levels described should be used in the second language classroom. Just as Gardner describes the Multiple Intelligences and appealing to them all, Dale’s Cone emphasizes learning experiences that appeal to the different senses and the different ways in which we learn. Direct parallels can be drawn between the different levels of experience depicted in the Cone and the stages of the B- SLIM model. When looking at Figure 2 (fromAlabama Professional Development Modules) to the right, the first 6 types of experience (from the top of the cone downward) are all part of the Getting It and Using It stages of B-SLIM. The real-world experiences at the bottom of the Cone relate directly to the Proving It stage; it is at this stage of the model that students are encouraged to use what they have learned in new, real-life contexts.

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