Cone of Learning - How children Learn and what ADHD Children are telling us


ADHD and the Cone of Learning

Children diagnosed with ADHD or ADD who are naturally very active have more difficulties to integrate the school environment. The class size does not allow much room for participation and individual interaction between student and teacher. Back in 1969, Edgar Dale developed what became the “Cone of Learning” and we believe it is fundamental to understand the “Cone of Learning” to better help the active student.

Dale looked at the different ways to teach similar content and analyzed which ways seemed to be the most effective. The study showed that reading, listening to a lecture, looking at pictures or watching a video are all “passive” ways of leaning (we only receive information).

He also showed that after a few weeks we tend to remember a lot less than when participating directly in the discussion, giving a talk, simulating the real experience or doing the real thing which are all considered “active” ways of learning (involving both receiving and participating). In other words, our ability to learn and remember things is directly linked to our level of involvement as illustrated in the picture below.

The first thing we can learn from the “Cone of Learning” is that active “participation” seems to be the best way for any student to learn, ADHD or not. Unfortunately, the size of our classrooms today does not favor participation and most schools primarily propose passive ways of learning due to sheer numbers and organization constraints. This passive way of learning is especially not adapted for active kids who love to participate and really get involved doing things.

Some children who are more active usually enjoy an active way of learning while other children are more comfortable with less engagement and prefer simply listening. So first you’ll need to understand how your child best learns. We might see that having an active child who prefers active learning will be more of a challenge in the learning environment. But actually, most children prefer active learning, and especially when they are younger. However, after a few years of training in the school system, most of those children are moving to the least efficient way of learning for them personally, but the most efficient for the school -  since the classroom does not allow much place for active participation. Start by helping your child to understand that being an active child and wanting to participate is actually very good and normal but also explain why it is not very adapted to the school environment. Use tricks to help your child participate without disturbing the class like writing his questions on a piece of paper and either waiting for the right time to ask the questions or asking you the questions after school at home. Enroll your child in active classes like acting class, sports classes or a circus class where he can spend his extra energy and feel productive and good about having all that wonderful energy. Propose fun projects at home that require active participation such as painting, cooking and building.  Spend as much time as possible with your child discussing any subject which  allows your child to express his emotions and creativity. Introduce some relaxation time before bed time as well to allow your child calm time to transition into a good night sleep and feel the natural flow of active and quiet time.

By helping your child understand the cone of learning and how most kids really learn, along with presenting opportunities for active and quiet time - you will become closer to your child and better understand him. Of equal importance is that your child will feel better about himself knowing that it’s okay to want to run, play, get involved and ask hundreds of questions.

While schools are not able to appease all learning types, help your child understand how smart and wonderful he is for being so curious about the world. Make your active child feel good even if the classroom is not always the ideal environment for his own personal learning style. We know that most child retain better when active anyway, so your child is essentially demanding what all children really need according to the ‘Cone of Learning’. You could say that your own child is a bit ahead of the curve because he is trying to show everyone by his actions what children everywhere really need. Your child is actually leading the way for others. Perhaps when enough parents and educators become aware of the cone of learning and it’s correlation with ADHD, more classrooms will try to implement active hands-on learning on a wide scale. When this happens, it’s sure to be a win-win for everyone, and all the children today labeled as ADHD will be known as those who changed the future for the better.

Recommended Products