The learning pyramid (also known as “the cone of learning”, “the cone of experience”, “the learning cone”, “the cone of retention”, “the pyramid of learning”, or “the pyramid of retention”) is a group of popular learning models and representations relating different degrees of retention induced from various type of learning. The representations is generally via percentages and discrete layers within a "pyramid of learning". The divide is generally 10, 20, 30, 50 and 90 percent.
The earliest such representation is believed to originate in a 1954 book called Audio-Visual Methods in Teaching. A pyramid model was developed by the National Training Laboratories Institute in the early 1960s, on its main campus in Bethel, Maine, for which the original, internal research has been lost. This NTL's learning pyramid model still became a central representation of this concept with a large number of models drawing from it. This NTL's model generally displays the following representation.
|Retention rate||Learning activity before test of knowledge|
|90%||Teach someone else/use immediately.|
|75%||Practice what one learned.|
|50%||Engaged in a group discussion.|
|30%||Watch a demonstration.|
|5%||Listening to a lecture.|
Criticism emerged on early version of the model such as Dale's Cone of experience. Critics reported inconsistencies between the pyramid of learning and actual state of the art in retention researches. The former NLT learning pyramid study being lost, the field largely stands on an unknown methodology of unknown quality, with unknown mitigation of influential parameters such time, population tested, etc., making the original study's results untrustworthy.
However, these myths continue to be published which is "potentially harmful to both professional as well as political deliberations on educational issues."
- Letrud, Kåre (2012), "A rebuttal of NTL Institute's learning pyramid", Education (133): 117–124
- Subramony, D.P. (2003). “Dale’s Cone revisited: Critically examining the misapplication of a nebulous theory to guide practice”. Educational technology, 7-8, (25-30).
- Molenda, M. (2004). “Cone of experience. In A. Kovalchik & K. Dawson (Eds.), Education and Technology (161-165). California: ABCCLIO.
- Lalley, J. P. & Miller, R.H. (2007): “The learning pyramid: Does it point teachers in the right direction?” Education 128(1):64-79.