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Toward Eliminating An Unsupported Statement In Engineering Education Research And Literature

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Classroom Engagement

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1274.1 - 14.1274.10

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Paper Authors

author page

Keith Holbert Arizona State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Toward Eliminating An Unsupported Statement In Engineering Education Research And Literature

Keywords: learning styles, citation accuracy, learning cone


What evidence exists to support the commonly used STATEMENT that people remember: 10% of what they read; 20% of what they hear; 30% of what they see; 50% of what they hear and see; 70% of what they say; and 90% of what they say as they do a thing? The first archived occurrence of the STATEMENT emerges in a trade magazine article by Treichler (1967). The present paper provides a critical review of this unsupported STATEMENT and its proliferation. Those recent ASEE conference papers which provide a reference mostly cite Stice (1987), either directly or indirectly through Felder and Silverman (1988). Some authors do not provide a reference, but perhaps worse yet are those authors who erroneously cite Dale or Glasser as the source. In 2003, Subramony refuted the connection between Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience and the STATEMENT. Perhaps most disturbing are those papers that not only provide an erroneous reference, but which also augment the STATEMENT with non-existent phrases such as “after two weeks, people generally remember…” A study by Lee and Bowers (1997) of students studying physics found that reading is, in fact, more important than hearing.


Having been challenged by a member of the public—specifically a K-12 school teacher—to provide authoritative source(s) of the STATEMENT, what was envisioned as a simple search and proof would ultimately reveal a lack of evidence for the cited statistics. The STATEMENT being referred to here is that people (or students) learn (or recall/remember):

10% of what they read 20% of what they hear 30% of what they see 50% of what they hear and see 70% of what they say (and write) 90% of what they say as they do a thing

There are various forms and permutations of the STATEMENT found in published literature. This paper details the results of the quest to find support for the STATEMENT. This is not the first investigation into the source of these numbers, as a literature search reveals that Molenda essentially debunked these numbers in 2004 1.

The STATEMENT in Literature

In this section, some of the sources of the STATEMENT are examined as well as a brief genealogy depicting its propagation through archival literature. The first occurrence of the STATEMENT seems to appear in a 1967 trade magazine article 2 by Treichler, who was affiliated with the

Holbert, K. (2009, June), Toward Eliminating An Unsupported Statement In Engineering Education Research And Literature Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015