Edgar Dale Myth found in TED Talk….Is there a silver lining to these myths?

The Edgar Dale Myth recently resurfaced in a TED Talk, indicating that TED talks–though doing a great job preparing the speaker to be engaging–don't fact check.

Here is the offending TED Talk, with the erroneous information starting at 5:48.


As chronicled on this blog since 2006, and on a precursor website since 2002 (12 years ago), the Edgar Dale Myth is pernicious, dangerous, and seemingly immortal. See the following link for the original post:


Special thanks to JC Kinnamon, PhD for pointing out the offending video to me. JC has been a long-time compiler of the Edgar Dale Myth, and I thank him for his continued efforts!

Crazy Thought

Perhaps there is a silver lining in the continued resurfacing of these myths. For years, I've seen these myths as completely detrimental to our field–something to squash with crusader-like zealotry.

But the speaker in the TED video got me thinking. Perhaps these myths have social value. Perhaps when a myth surfaces, we are receiving an important signal that the conveyor of the myth is a lightweight–that it is very likely that he or she (or they) really don't understand learning at a deep level.

One of the things I hope everybody in the learning field understands is that, first, there is good research and there is bad research; and second, that people who cite research fall into two categories. Some people seek the truth in the research and report what they find. Other people seek research to prop up their previously-held beliefs, to "demonstrate" the benefits of their products or services, or to cast themselves in an aura of credibility.

Beware of People Citing Research

Yes, it's complicated! And everybody suffers somewhat from unintentional confirmatory bias, but caveat emptor, we as professionals have to be careful in assessing research claims. Science is built on skepticism. Professional practice should utilize a healthy dose of skepticism as well.

The speaker at the TED talk showed that he couldn't be trusted to know learning at a deep level by his use of this phony Edgar Dale "research." And then he double-confirmed it by asking his audience to play word bingo. He gave everybody a bingo card with words on it. Then he had people keep track of the words he was saying. When someone got all the words in a row, column, or diagonal he had them stand up and say BINGO, with applause from the audience. Anybody who knows learning knows that his word-bingo game distracted the audience from the main points of his message, hurting learning.

The use of the Edgar Dale myth by the speaker was an accurate portrayal of his lack of deep knowledge. He may have had some valuable things to say otherwise, but how could we be sure–indications were not good.

Is there a silver lining in the re-occurance of these myths? I've tried to convince myself in writing this that there might be some benefit, but the benefit comes only to those who know that the myths are myths!!! And, for the benifits to accrue, those of us who are out there trying to squash the myths must continue to proselytize and educate. Indeed, for our field to maximize its positive influence, each and every one of us must be hungry hunters of good research, skeptical assessors, and eager communicators.

So, send this blog post to those who are open to continuous improvement. SMILE