The Debunker Club sponsored — as an experiment — an April Fool’s Week in 2015 with the idea of taking aim at one of the most ubiquitous pieces of information in the learning field–the bogus percent-remembering numbers and the corruptions of Dale’s Cone.

During the first week in April, 2015, we attempted to rally members of The Debunker Club, and members of the public, to seek examples of the false information and inform the conveyors of that information that they are polluting the field with bad information.


April 7th, 2015:

For reasons we are investigating, the April-Fool’s-Week experiment did not energize much debunking activity. We are looking into “lessons learned” and will generate additional efforts to help squash debilitating learning myths and misinformation in the future.

If you were a member of the Debunker Club during the first week of April 2015, please complete our “lessons learned” survey.



Previous Instructions (April Fool’s Week is Now Concluded)

Let me start off with a personal confession. Part of me — the adolescent boy I once was — would like to completely embarrass and shame people who are propagating bad information. WE MUST RESIST this juicy temptation. Why? Because assholes rarely persuade!

April Fool’s Week is designed to highlight specific instances of bad information — but also to shine a spotlight on the need for skepticism in our field.

To this end, here are our instructions:

  1. Seek out examples of bad information as it relates to the meme that “people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, etc.” (or similar versions) AND concomitant bastardized versions of Dale’s Cone of Experience (the one’s with the percentages added!).
  2. Gently contact the purveyors of the misleading information and let them know that the information they are broadcasting does not have a basis in scientific research, and in fact, it sends many incorrect and harmful messages about how to design effective learning. Feel free to craft your own gentle and respectful correspondence. Consider making the following points:
    • The information you’re presenting, though it may appear to have scientific support, has been exhaustively researched and found to have no basis in science.
      • A journal article from the scientific journal Educational Technology details the research that shows there is no research backing for the information. (Subramony, D., Molenda, M., Betrus, A., and Thalheimer, W. (2014). The Mythical Retention Chart and the Corruption of Dale’s Cone of Experience. Educational Technology, Nov/Dec 2014, 54(6), 6-16.)
      • You can read a review of the article here:
      • You can also read about these issues here:
    • The information presented is likely to produce more harm than good, promoting poor learning designs and hurting learners.
      • While learning professionals might abstract some beneficial notions from the percentages portrayed in the misleading information — namely that encouraging realistic practice has benefits — there are numerous faulty concepts within the bogus percentages that can do real harm.
        • By having people think that there are benefits to seeing over hearing, or hearing over reading, we are sending completely wrong messages about how learning works.
        • By having people think that “collaborating, discussing, saying (etc.)” are useful learning constructs, we distort and confuse what is really important.
      • Most importantly, recent advances in learning science have really come together over the last two decades. The misleading information was first reported in 1914, with no research backing. It is better to follow the more recent findings than information that has no scientific basis.
        • See for example, the book Make it Stick…by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel.
      • Let them know that you are representing a larger community of folks who are attempting to encourage the use of proven, scientifically-based learning factors in the learning field.
        • Provide them the website of The Debunker Club
        • Let them know you’ll be posting about their misleading information, send them the link to your post (or the webpage where it’s located), and ask them to comment and respond to your post if they wish, because you (and the debunker community in general) want to learn how other people feel about the issues and ideas surrounding the original information and the debunking work as well.
  3. To Increase Your Persuasive Skills, Read the Following Quick Research Review
  4. Post each of your debunking efforts at the April Fool’s Week 2015 webpage.
    • [website address removed because it is no longer relevant].
  5. Earning a Badge. For those interested, if you’ve successfully communicated and posted your debunking efforts to SEVEN or more purveyors of bad information, contact Will Thalheimer ( to obtain your Cone-Debunker badge. A special shout-out will go to those who make extraordinary efforts, as well!!
  6. Remember, listen just as much as you convey, and post any insights you gain on the April-Fool’s Week 2015 webpage as well.
    • Look for the benefits the purveyor sees in the information they’ve presented.
    • Look for perspectives that you (or we) might not have considered.
    • Look for insights or research-needs that research has yet to uncover.
  7. Be respectful in all your communications!
  8. Thank you! Thank you for making a special effort to help encourage the use of evidence-based practices in the learning field!
  9. Remember! Reaching out to seven purveyors of misinformation is only one per day!