Dale's cone of learning
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Dale's cone of learning (also Dale's cone of experience) is a useful (if somewhat overused /misused) graphic that depicts the hierarchy of learning through the programming of real experiences e.g. on the job, situated in a real context, and so on. To engage in a form of active learning means to become involved actively in the process which should take place in circumstances that come as close to the lived experience as possible. Edgar Dale's research from the 1940s suggests that the best method for active learning in the classroom is at the bottom of the cone, and consists of fieldwork, hands-on activities or situated learning. As Dale puts it "Do the real thing", don't read about it or listen to someone else describe it. Conversely, the least effective methods are at the top of the cone, and consist of listening to presentations in a classroom or lecture hall or reading about something in a book or article. In 1946, Dale introduced the Cone of Experience concept in a textbook on audiovisual methods in teaching. He revised it for a second printing in 1954 and again in 1969.
The cone of learning underlines the premise that if you show someone how to do something, they will probably remember. But if you involve them in a meaningful way, they'll likely understand it better. In other words, the most durable form of learning is when you involve the learner directly in a meaningful way and preferably through the availability of hands-on experience.
An argument can be made that to achieve complete learning or acuity, various manifestations of each step on the Dale cone would need to be presented to learners. In the context of searching Medline, this might begin with a lecture; demonstration; handout; then, practical hands-on exercises in the computer lab; eventually, transferring to the wards using mobile devices.
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