The Learning Pyramid: What You Need to Know

September 14, 2023
3 min read

Trying to figure out what kind of learning style works best for you? The answer may be  more complicated than you think. Read on to learn all about the levels of the learning pyramid.

A class of smiling young students

There are as many different styles of learning as there are teachers. Students worldwide have unique backgrounds and skills that help them master content and succeed academically. But what if there was a more organized and cleaner system to help you retain information as much as possible? Thankfully, there is. It’s a little theory called the learning pyramid.

You’ll be able to fine-tune how you absorb content and learn information more effectively through different techniques and mediums. Some people work better in different settings, and it’s silly to prescribe a blanket approach to every student. Through cone learning, you’ll be able to improve your time management and prioritize areas that make more sense to you.

Be sure to give our detailed guide a careful read. Our expert tips cover these distinct learning styles and give additional information and advice about approaching each  pyramid level. When you're done, you’ll undoubtedly have new techniques and insights to apply to your studying habits.

Let's review everything you need to know about the pyramid of learning!

What Is the Learning Pyramid?

Learning Pyramid

The learning pyramid, or cone learning, involves a stratified hierarchy of learning styles. The information can be divided into several dimensions, including active and passive learning and audio, visual, and kinesthetic. 

Although the amount of retention varies with each level, remember different students have a natural affinity for certain areas and can benefit more than others while using them. Furthermore, there is a progressive nature to the learning, whereby earlier levels can improve comprehension when more advanced learning occurs.

Also, the levels of the learning pyramid aren’t always clear-cut, and some styles may overlap with others. Additionally, you may find yourself going back to earlier methods, skipping some, or doing things in a different order. The pyramid of learning is descriptive, not prescriptive, and serves as a helpful guide rather than some rigid and unadaptable structure.

The Levels of the Learning Pyramid

There are seven different levels of the learning pyramid, three of which are passive learning:

  • Passive learning
  • Lecture
  • Reading
  • Audio Visual
  • Active learning
  • Demonstration
  • Discussion
  • Practice by Doing
  • Teaching Others

Remember, some aspects of the pyramid are less substantiated than others. The exact percentages of retention on each level are difficult to prove. The key takeaway  is a general progression from passive to active learning that increases retention at every level.


The lecture format is arguably the least effective module in cone learning. Many students hope to sit back and have the information they need to be spoon-fed to them without doing any work. Unfortunately, the brain doesn’t retain information when it isn’t engaged.

That being said, attending lectures is often a core component of student life. And there are ways to improve retention. You can familiarize yourself with the material beforehand, take notes while listening, and ask any questions.

Note that if you learn well with auditory information, lectures may be especially beneficial. Perhaps you’re someone who frequently enjoys podcasts and radio shows. In this case, lectures can feel very natural and engaging to you.


Some people are more solitary learners with a knack for visual information. If this sounds like you,  reading may shine as a stronger introductory learning method than lectures in the pyramid of learning.

Although reading works with language-based pathways, similar to lectures, there’s the added advantage of being able to go back and reread information. You can also modify the pace you read, unlike lectures (unless they’re recorded).

While reading doesn’t rank highly in retention, you can improve your reading comprehension by taking notes as you read and summarizing information in your own words. You may find that giving the readings a cursory overview before class helps you learn more during lectures. 

Audio Visual

Audio-visual methods can cater to different kinds of learners. Learning can include  graphs, pictures, audio snippets, and videos. Integrating content like this in learning can be especially useful for classes like science, where much of the content is abstract, or math, where graphs and models can depict real-world scenarios.

This ties into the previous levels of the learning pyramid. Pictures can anchor new information being introduced to you. Too often, students zone out briefly and can’t understand what a teacher is discussing. This occurs when you don’t have a focal point to contextualize new information, such as graphs or images.


Demonstration can be especially helpful in showing a real-world scenario of your learning. This is why much science requires labs; they give students live applications of the concepts they need to master.

Physics experiments, art techniques, and even math can all benefit from having live demonstrations. Younger students may find this cone learning module much easier to engage with since it applies to something right before them.


Using communication to reinforce learning and understanding isn’t a new concept. Not only do students work through the information they interpret when communicating, but they also fill in gaps in each other’s learning. Discussions can help students personalize the content and steer it in a direction they find interesting. 

A social component to the learning pyramid makes the entire experience more interactive and memorable. Challenging debates and pragmatic discourse occur when students can participate in the learning process. Even for more introverted students, being able to observe a discussion has several learning benefits.

Practice by Doing

This is where the training wheel starts to come off before students have fully grasped the lesson. Practicing is where students can solidify their learning by putting theory into practice. Applying a piece of information to solve different kinds of problems requires enough mastery. 

Encouraging students to abstract logic to various areas is integral to fully understanding the material. The content can be fully integrated into their baseline knowledge with enough patience and diligence.

Teaching Others

Teaching others is the final step of the pyramid of learning. This modality is widely assumed to have the highest retention, and it’s no surprise. Teaching other students requires a deep and flexible understanding of course contents. It’s one of the most active forms of learning and can allow students  to learn from each other.

Students can have opportunities to teach each other when forming study groups or  trying out peer tutoring.

FAQs: Pyramid of Learning

Still confused about the levels of the learning pyramid? Try looking at some of our most commonly asked questions on the topic.

1. Who Created the Learning Pyramid Theory?

Edgar Dale created the learning pyramid theory.

2. Why Is the Learning Pyramid Important?

The learning pyramid is important since it helps break down and organize different methods and styles of learning. In an ideal world, we’d retain 100% of the information we come across, but this is not the case in day-to-day learning. 

3. Do Students Remember 90% of What They Do?

The 90% figure is frequently cited for the teaching others segment of the learning pyramid. Note, however, that the retention may be so high for the method because students have already progressed through more rudimentary prerequisite modules. 

Final Thoughts

Learning can be challenging, frustrating, and sometimes even stressful. Having a proper system that considers different learning styles and techniques can help students make informed decisions about putting their education first. 

We learn as much about the content we’re studying through deep learning as we do about ourselves. Finding out what kind of learner you are can prepare you for future success.

While the pyramid of learning may not solve every educational mishap, it serves a fundamental purpose of scaffolding the academic process. Learning progresses from passive to active, with more attention and deliberate effort commanded by students as they grow with the content they’re mastering.

No matter your skill level, you’re bound to be able to improve or, at the very least, understand your learning on a deeper level with the learning pyramid.

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