Cone of Experience


Distinguishing and ranking sources of information, from most concrete to most abstract

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … information
  • Knowing is … using information
  • Learner is … an information processor (individual)
  • Learning is … inputting (and associated computer-based notions, such as processing, storing, and retrieving)
  • Teaching is … transmission (of information)




The Cone of Experience is a 10-level model of different types of learning experiences, with most concrete experiences at the bottom and the most abstract at the top (Direct Purposeful Experiences; Contrived Experiences; Dramatized Experiences; Demonstrations; Study Trips; Exhibits; Educational Television; Motion Pictures; Recordings, Radio, Still Pictures; Visual Symbols; Verbal Symbols). Associated with Cognitivism, it was intended as a tool to render efforts to influence learning more efficient and effective.


The most obvious shortcoming of the Cone of Experience is that it is clearly a moment-specific artefact. It was revised several times, and a quick review of its foci reveals that it fails to account for a tremendous range of information technologies. Although not actually part of the model, another problem is that it lends itself to bogus modifications on percentages and sequences.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Edward Dale

Status as a Theory of Learning

The Cone of Experience is not a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

The Cone of Experience is a descriptive taxonomy that is intended to be useful in efforts to influence learning. That is, it is a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

The Cone of Experience meets few of our criteria for a scientific theory.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2019). “Cone of Experience” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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