Jean Lave, Etienne Wenger and communities of practice

Jean Lave, Etiene Wenger and communities of practice. The idea that learning involves a deepening process of participation in a community of practice has gained significant ground in recent years. Communities of practice have also become an important focus within organizational development and have considerable value when thinking about working with groups. In this article […]

John Dewey on education, experience and community

John Dewey on education, experience and community. Arguably the most influential thinker on education in the twentieth century, Dewey’s contribution lies along several fronts. His attention to experience and reflection, democracy and community, and to environments for learning have been seminal. (This ‘John Dewey’ page is due to be extended). John Dewey (1859 – 1952) […]

Howard Gardner, multiple intelligences and education

Howard Gardner, multiple intelligences and education. Howard Gardner’s work around multiple intelligences has had a profound impact on thinking and practice in education – especially in the United States. Here we explore the theory of multiple intelligences; why it has found a ready audience amongst educationalists; and some of the issues around its conceptualization and […]

John Holt, learning and (un)schooling

John Holt. John Holt’s explorations of the failures of formal teaching and schooling influenced a generation of educators. By looking to the experiences and interests of children, and the sense they made of learning and education, we can find great possibility. John Caldwell Holt (1923-1985) forthcoming   Websites The best starting point is It […]

Ivan Illich: deschooling, conviviality and lifelong learning

Ivan Illich: deschooling, conviviality and  lifelong learning. Known for his critique of modernization and the corrupting impact of institutions, Ivan Illich’s concern with deschooling, learning webs and the disabling effect of professions has struck a chord among many informal educators. We explore key aspects of his theory and his continuing relevance for informal education and […]

Lifespan development and lifelong learning

Lifespan development and lifelong learning. ‘Development’ is one of those familiar concepts that seeps almost unnoticed into the conversations of educators. They are self-evidently concerned with the development of people. But what is development? Are there particular stages that we pass through in our life course? Contents · introduction · development · stages · gender, […]

What is learning? A definition and discussion

What is learning? A definition and discussion. Is learning  a change in behaviour or understanding? Is it a process? Mark K Smith surveys some key dimensions and ideas.   A definition for starters: Learning is a process that is often not under our control and is wrapped up with the environments we inhabit and the […]

The behaviourist orientation to learning

The behaviourist orientation to learning. The behaviourist movement in psychology has looked to the use of experimental procedures to study behaviour in relation to the environment. John B. Watson, who is generally credited as the first behaviourist, argued that the inner experiences that were the focus of psychology could not be properly studied as they […]

The cognitive orientation to learning

The cognitive orientation to learning. Where behaviourists looked to the environment, those drawing on Gestalt turned to the individual’s mental processes. In other words, they were concerned with cognition – the act or process of knowing. Many psychologists were not happy with behaviourism. There was a belief among some that there was too much of […]

The constructivist / social constructivist orientation to learning

Photo by John Salvino on Unsplash The constructivist / social constructivist orientation to learning. With its roots in the work of Dewey, Vygotsky, Bruner and others, this approach involves learning culturally shared ways of understanding and talking about the world. Coming soon

Humanistic orientations to learning

Humanistic orientations to learning. In this framework the basic concern is for human growth. We look to the work of Maslow and Rogers as expressions of this approach. A great deal of the theoretical writing about adult education in the 1970s and 1980s drew on humanistic psychology. In this orientation the basic concern is for […]

Maria Montessori and education

Maria Montessori and education. First the education of the senses, then the education of the intellect – Montessori’s vision and ‘method’ are still popular. Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952). Maria Montessori was the first woman in Italy to qualify as a physician. She developed an interest in the diseases of children and in the needs […]

Michael Newman, adult learning, social action and activist education

Michael Newman, adult learning, social action and activist education. Michael Newman’s work and writing has, for many years, offered an important, grounded and refreshing alternative to much of what has passed as the mainstream in adult education and lifelong learning. In this piece we explore his contribution and the possibilities it offers for ‘activist educators’. […]

Reflection, learning and education

Reflection, learning and education. What constitutes reflection – and what significance does it have for educators? The contributions of Dewey, Schön and Boud et. al. assessed. Contents: Dewey – and How We Think · Boud et. al. – reflection: turning experience into learning · Schön – reflection in and on action · further reading When […]

Relationship, learning and education

Relationship, learning and education. What is a relationship, and what special qualities are present in social pedagogy and informal education? We suggest that the focus on learning, mutuality and the emotional bond between people are important features of the sorts of relationships that social pedagogues and informal educators are involved in. Contents: introduction · relationship […]

Relationship: learning, mutuality and emotional bonds

Relationship: learning, mutuality and emotional bonds. What is a relationship, and what special qualities are present in in community learning and development, informal education and social pedagogy? We suggest that the focus on learning, mutuality and the emotional bond between people are important features of the sorts of relationships that educators and animateurs like these […]

Donald Schon (Schön): learning, reflection and change

Donald Schon (Schön): learning, reflection and change. Donald Schon made a remarkable contribution to our understanding of the theory and practice of learning. His innovative thinking around notions such as ‘the learning society’, ‘double-loop learning’ and ‘reflection-in-action’ has become part of the language of education. We explore his work and some of the key themes […]

Self, selfhood and understanding

Self, selfhood and understanding. This page explores the nature of the self. We look at four different models of selfhood – which is a far from easy task. It is difficult to take a step outside what we take for granted. Contents:  introduction · starting with the parts · looking to the whole · the […]

Self-direction in learning

Self-direction in learning. Many books and articles about lifelong learning talk glibly about self direction. Too often this idea is seen as unproblematic – an obvious good. But things are not quite as they seem. Contents: Tough – self education and learning projects · product and process ·  Knowles – process and the rationale for […]

Self-directed learning

Stephen D. Brookfield explores the notion of self-directed learning. He takes Knowles’ (1975) influential definition as a starting point and then explores some of the problems surrounding the idea. Brookfield highlights two particular characteristics that move the discussion from a technical to a critical realm: authentic control, and access to resources. He argues that it […]

A conceptual framework for understanding self-direction in adult learning

In this chapter from Self-Direction in Adult Learning (1991), Ralph G. Brockett and Roger Hiemstra argue that self-direction in learning refers to two distinct but related dimensions: as an instructional process where a learner assumes primary responsibility for the learning process; and as a personality characteristic centering on a learner’s desire or preference for assuming […]

Peter Senge and the learning organization

Peter Senge and the learning organization. Peter Senge’s vision of a learning organization as a group of people who are continually enhancing their capabilities to create what they want to create has been deeply influential. We discuss the five disciplines he sees as central to learning organizations and some issues and questions concerning the theory […]

Allen Tough, learning projects and lifelong learning

Allen M. Tough, learning projects and lifelong learning. Allen Tough deepened our appreciation of lifelong learning through his studies of the ways in which adults conduct learning projects as part of everyday life. Here we examine his contribution. Under construction Allen M. Tough (1936-2012) is best known for his research and writing around the processes […]