Researchers in educational science say that one of the worst ways for students to learn is by parking them in front of a teacher who “spoon feeds” them a lecture. Studies show that students retain just 5% of what they hear from a teacher in front of a classroom.
That’s why “lecture” occupies the tip of the Learning Pyramid, a graphic representation of the most effective teaching tools. The Learning Pyramid categorizes the most effective to least effective teach tools with the weakest methods at the top and the best at the bottom, the foundation of the pyramid.
So, what’s the most powerful teaching method that makes up the base of the pyramid? That would be “students teaching other students.” That’s right. Researchers say that when a student learns something – and then is tasked with teaching it to a fellow student – they will retain 90% of what they learned.
Students-teaching-students is an example of what educators call “kinesthetic” teaching methods. In short, it gets the student involved with the material to be learned in a physical, mental and visceral way.
Two other forms of kinesthetic learning make up the bottom portion of The Learning Pyramid. They are “practice doing” which helps students retain 75% and “discussion.” The latter provides a 50% retention factor.
The next two steps up The Learning Pyramid hierarchy are categorized as “visual.” This includes “demonstration” (30% retention), “audio-visual,” (20% retention) and “reading,” (10% retention).
Some might be surprised that reading is classified as just 10% effective in helping students retain knowledge. On the other hand, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation for any category of learning. For example, reading can be highly effective for students who happen to be strong visual learners. Educators hasten to add that excellent reading skills remain necessary because it is still fundamental to the intake of information.
Thus, it is important to keep in mind that any learning method that appears in the Learning Pyramid will depend upon the unique learning strengths and weaknesses of each individual student. All students are different. For a variety of complex reasons, including genetic influence, some students excel as audio learners while others fare better as visual learners.
It’s clear, however, that kinesthetic learning is a powerful way for all students to really sink their minds into the material they need to learn. It is also generally more fun, engaging and activating for students.