Based on 30 interviews with and observations of professionals, 5 prototypical metaphors of learning are described and related to existing theories about learning. Two of the metaphors were previously described by Sfard: the acquisition and participation metaphors. As well, three new metaphors were found: the discovery metaphor, the apperception metaphor and the exercising metaphor. In an initial study, a newly devised questionnaire was tested with 713 elementary teachers, 92 principals and 33 support people. The five learning metaphors could be distinguished and proved to be reliable, although improvements were necessary. The correlations between the scales were as expected. Meaningful relations were found with the variables of the educational system, age, experience and educational level. In a second study, a revised questionnaire was tested with 556 professionals from 12 different organisations. The five learning metaphors proved to be more reliable than in the first study. The correlations between the scales were in line with expected patterns of correlations: implicit, explicit and social preferences correlated more with each other than with the other preferences. The expected differences between organisations, professions and groups were apparent and could be interpreted meaningfully. The discussion describes the practical use of the metaphors and suggestions for further research. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.