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Myth:

To become a preeminent expert, it takes 10,000 hours of practice.

Description:

Ever since Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers, which has sold north of 2 million copies, the “10,000 Hour Rule” has become very well known in the learning and education fields. While Gladwell popularized the meme, it’s pretty clear that it is not original with him.

Nevertheless, it is Gladwell’s synopsis that has traveled through the information universe. Here are some of the major parameters of Gladwell’s description:

  • It takes everyone, in every field, 10,000 hours to become a preeminent expert.

 

Strength of Evidence Against

Gladwell is certainly correct that expertise requires intense long-term practice. However, the notion that it always takes 10,000 hours is certainly wrong. As researcher Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool have written in their book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, “Unfortunately, this rule — which is the only thing that many people today know about the effects of practice — is wrong in several ways. (It is also correct in one important way, which I will get to shortly.)” (p. 110).

  • Some experts take longer, some shorter to reach expertise.
  • Different fields require different amounts of practice.
  • Not all practice is created equal. It is only “deliberate practice” that enables expertise.
  • Not all people who practice for 10,000 hours will become experts.
  • To become an expert, it does take intensive, intentional, well-designed practice over many years.

Note: Deliberate practice “involves constantly pushing oneself beyond one’s comfort zone, following training activities designed by an expert to develop specific abilities, and using feedback to identify weaknesses and work on them.” From Ericsson and Pool article in Salon.

Notes on Deliberate Practice

While the deliberate-practice notion has received widespread research support, it should not be interpreted to suggest that such deliberate practice is all you need to be good. Moreover, it should not be interpreted to mean that deliberate practice has the same impact in every field of endeavor. Indeed a recent meta-analysis suggested that deliberate practice may be more potent in some fields than in others.

 

Debunking Resources — Text-Based Web Pages

 

Debunking Resources — Audio Podcasts

 

 


Myth:

People remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read, 30% of what they see, et cetera. (and variants thereof, including when these numbers are placed on Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience)

Description:

One of the most ubiquitous learning myths is that people remember a certain percentage of what they had learned depending on the perceptual modality or activity that they engaged in to learn. So for example, it has been claimed that people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and do, 70% of what they say, and 80% of what they do and say. There are many, many variants of these numbers, but they are all untrue and misleading.

Note that Edgar Dale never used numbers on his Cone of Experience. Moreover, he saw his model as one that described reality, not as one to guide the design of learning.

Strength of Evidence Against

The strength of evidence against the percentages is extremely strong; to the point that there is virtually zero chance that these numbers are correct. Moreover, there are far better resources that can be used to guide learning design than these bogus percentages, which even if they were correct, would not be granular enough to effectively guide learning-design decisions.

Debunking Resources — Text-Based Web Pages

 

Debunking Resources — Videos

  • None that we know of…

Debunking Resources — Newspapers & Magazines

  • None that we know of…

Debunking Resources — Scientific Articles

 

  • PDF copy of the following four articles.
  • 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.
  • Subramony, D., Molenda, M., Betrus, A., and Thalheimer, W. (2014). Previous Attempts to Debunk the Mythical Retention Chart and Corrupted Dale’s Cone. Educational Technology, Nov/Dec 2014, 54(6), 17-21.
  • Subramony, D., Molenda, M., Betrus, A., and Thalheimer, W. (2014). The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: A Bibliographic Essay on the Corrupted Cone. Educational Technology, Nov/Dec 2014, 54(6), 22-31.
  • Subramony, D., Molenda, M., Betrus, A., and Thalheimer, W. (2014). Timeline of the Mythical Retention Chart and Corrupted Dale’s Cone. Educational Technology, Nov/Dec 2014, 54(6), 31-24.
  • Jackson, J. (2016). Myths of Active Learning: Edgar Dale and the Cone of Experience. Journal of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society, 20(2), pp. 51-53. Available by clicking here.