DIKW Pyramid


Data Pyramid
DIKW Hierarchy
Information Hierarchy
Knowledge Hierarchy
Wisdom Hierarchy


Distinguishing among epistemological categories

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … information synthesized over time and across contexts
  • Knowing is … meaning
  • Learner is … information-using system
  • Learning is … state-changing event
  • Teaching is … varies, depending on focus




The DIKW Pyramid is a catch-all description of several models explicating the relationships among data (symbols,DIKW Pyramid signals, unprocessed facts), information (useful, meaningful data), knowledge (information synthesized over time and across contexts), and wisdom (know-why, an extension of know-how). Most commonly characterized as a hierarchy (hence the pyramid), these relationships have also been described in terms of a chain, a framework, nested systems, networks, and a continuum. The DIKW Pyramid is invoked in many contexts and in many ways – for example, to distinguish between objective and subjective claims, mechanical and intelligent processes, and meaningless and meaningful actions.


There are many, many variations of the concepts and distinctions addressed by the DIKW Pyramid. Variations in terminology, definition, and graphics reveal that imaginings of clear distinctions and logical hierarchies are obvious fictions – although, it would seem, not entirely un-useful, based on the resonance of the model with across so many audiences. To that end, recursive definitions of the levels out of Second-Order Cybernetics may render the model of greater use within education (e.g., data = differences; information = differences that make a difference; knowledge = awareness of differences that make a difference; wisdom = ethical action based on awareness of differences that make a difference).

Authors and/or Prominent Influences


Status as a Theory of Learning

The DIKW Pyramid is not a theory of learning, but it can serve to orient attentions to key elements necessary in a theory of learning. For example, it is useful for separating out perspectives that address only acquisition of information.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

The DIKW Pyramid is not a theory of teaching. However, it is a useful device for distinguishing among educational philosophies and the modes of teaching associated with those philosophies.

Status as a Scientific Theory

The DIKW Pyramid is a catch-all that meets none of our criteria of a scientific theory.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “DIKW Pyramid” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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