Muddling through the blogosphere

How to Retain 90% of Everything You Learn


I like to start my mornings with a cup of coffee and the latest edition of The nwp Daily. I used to start the day with a visit to my Google Reader and Bloglines accounts to see if my favorite bloggers had posted anything new.  The nwp Daily has really streamlined the process of staying current for me because many of my smart, smart NWP colleagues are up before me, already gleaning the latest gems about teaching and learning – and not just blog posts, but Tweets too. Everyday I receive a wealth of thought-provoking ideas, questions, resources, research, etc., to ponder, to return to – and to share.

And so it was this morning, when I clicked on link in a Tweet from @mrami2 (Meenoo Rami), and opened‘ s article How to retain 90% of everything you learn. It’s not that the hierarchy is earth shattering; but it certainly affirms what good teaching – which certainly has a direct impact on learning – is all about:

To summarize the numbers (which sometimes get cited differently) learners retain approximately:
90% of what they learn when they teach someone else/use immediately.
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration.
20% of what they learn from audio-visual.
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading.
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from lecture.”

This school year, I’m coordinating an Advancing Network Uses (ANU) grant from California’s K12 High Speed Network (via ARRA funding). The grant has allowed me to showcase teachers in my district who are extending teaching and learning by integrating technology into the core curriculum. To date, I’ve filmed 12 of the 21 classroom lessons I’ve promised the state. In all 12 lessons, students have opportunities to collaborate and create, part of the criteria for their teachers being selected for the grant.

Since reading the Psyhchotactics article, I now realize these talented teachers (fearless explorers) also bring one more gift to their students: whatever the final product might be, students’ collaborative work also involves students immediately teaching or implementing all or bits of the initial lesson. Kind of an “ah ha moment” for me.

For a peek into why I predict students in my ANU Teach 21 grant will retain 90% of what they learn, check out a field journaling lesson in Lesley McKillop’s class:


I’ll be back next month to share snippets of Teresa Cheung’s Stories from the Heart project and Terri Mills’ Listen to the Wind project (which are exemplary not only for all of the above reasons on retaining learning but also for learning English, both informal and academic).


  1. Hi Gail,

    Agreed that you will remember more when you’re involved in some kind of active process other than just sitting and listening but the idea that we remember 90% of what we teach is probably bunk. Have you read this article: ? This information gets passed around and around when really it defies logic. Speaking as a teacher, if I remembered 90% of everything I’ve taught I’d probably be a lot better at math by now.

    • Hi Mathew,

      Thanks for the link to the article. And I do know that any study that comes back with percentages that escalate by 10’s is unlikely to be scientifically accurate.

      But I also keep thinking about that last step: implementing or teaching someone else what you’ve just learned. Yesterday I returned to a site to watch 5th graders helping 1st graders do their first VoiceThreads. The lesson started last week, when 5th grade teacher Terri Mills read a story about the wind to a 1st grade class. She then provided a template and helped the 1st graders create a word bank of weather words, drawing on their senses and asking what the wind sounds like/smells like.looks like, etc.

      Yesterday, as I watched the 5th graders mentoring their 1st grade buddies from start (practicing reading their wind pieces) to finish (coaching students on pronunciation and making sure their little buddies were satisfied with their voice recordings), I felt pretty sure Terri’s students would remember not only how to set up a VoiceThread, but also the language of weather, laying a language foundation for the 5th grade weather unit.

      But the article is another reminder of what you’ve pointed out: we remember more by doing than just sitting.

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