By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instructions & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

Time to shake things up a bit around here. Special thanks to Dr. Rick Kralevich for sharing this challenging video:

I don’t have much to offer in the way of commentary, so I’ll just leave a question for discussion:

What implications does this 70:20:10 theory of learning have for the way you structure your courses and plan your learning experiences?


  1. Ernie Kulhanek5 years ago


    Interesting theory. I have read about it before. I don’t think anyone would question structuring the class to help students learn in this way, however here is the (potential) problem: 70% is based on the students doing the assignments given to them (or, as the narrator phrases it, “doing their jobs.”).

    I find that the students who struggle are unwilling to do the work it takes to become successful (particularly the practice outside of the classroom). How can teachers best help students achieve success if 70% of the knowledge acquisition comes down to the individual student’s actions?

    Focusing solely on the 10% (formal instruction and assessment) every class meeting does not seem wise either. I try to structure most class activities around the 20% (“conversations and having networks”). I think that my classes are just starting to see the benefits of this (weeks 5 and 6) because the students are now comfortable enough with each other to learn from one another.

    1. Ish Stabosz5 years ago

      I see what you’re saying about that 70%, Ernie. I think I was looking at it from a different angle. I was thinking that the 70% wasn’t necessarily about where students are doing the work (in class or out of class). I think that it’s more about what they are doing.

      So, if people learn 70% of a skill by doing it and only 10% through formal instruction, then I think the challenge is to make sure that we structure our classes in a way that allows students more time to “do” stuff.

      We both teach English, so I’ll use that as an example. And I’ll just look at the 70 and 10 for now; that pesky 20 just complicates matters. If I want to give students more opportunities to learn by doing rather than by formal instruction, I might devote more time (in and out of class) to letting students draft their essays, conduct peer review, and edit their work. The formal instruction could come by way of brief lessons to clear up misconceptions or to deliver mission-critical concepts, like how to show rather than tell in descriptive writing.

      I think embracing the 70% is about realizing there are some lessons that you definitely need to teach students, but there are many others that you just need to give them a chance to wrestle with until they need your help.

      Another example just popped into my head which should resonate with any parents out there. My 9-month old is just learning to climb up stairs. He’s learning this primarily by trying it out. But if I weren’t there to follow him up each step, the cost of failure would be too great. And if I weren’t there to clap for him when he reaches the top, the reward for success would be too small.

      1. Ernie Kulhanek5 years ago

        I think we are talking about using class time for the same thing. I interpreted the “doing their job” line to mean solo work or practice with the material -something I rarely have students do in class. I know the 20% is pesky…particularly if faced with a group that is loathe to actually interact with other human beings. (Sadly this seems to be increasing.) This is what I usually spend class time having the students do.

        One example of something that I have changed in my own teaching that I believe falls in line with this:

        Monday I had my students break into groups and complete a brief reading (the reading was a scenario). Once finished they were to discuss instances of status quo bias, communal reinforcement, and defense mechanisms they found in the reading. Afterwards each group would be expected to share what they found.

        Before class the students were to have read the relevant materials explaining what these concepts were. I used to review the readings’ key points with a PPT (mostly to aid those who did not do the reading). This was often time consuming as well as boring to those who had done the reading (not to mention falls in that 10% where students don’t retain much).

        What I typically do now is just have the students start. What I have found is that they would rather only do the reading when they MUST find that specific information. So far they have been smart enough to find the relevant information themselves (rather than rely on the PPT) and then practice the application of these concepts with their groups as I had planned.

        I still have all of my PPTs online, and am aware that some students view them, but I never actually go through them in class unless someone specifically has a question or the class asks to see it. I am finding that students are coming to class much more engaged because they know they will be required to DO things based on the reading. I am also getting specific questions from students, rather than the standard “I don’t understand any of it”.

        1. Ish Stabosz5 years ago

          What you describe is a good example, I’d say, of focusing on having students “do” learning rather than receive it, so I think we are on the same page about that. I may have misunderstood the original problem you identified.

          Were you trying to say that the difficulty comes in relying on students to actually make effective use of those opportunities we create for them to engage in the 70%?

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