Activity- and Experience-Focused Discourses


Insisting that “doing” be part of the educational experience

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … action-based and action-altering competencies
  • Knowing is … applying; using
  • Learner is … an actor; a doer
  • Learning is … interpreting; developing abilities
  • Teaching is … formatting (activities, challenges, and situations)




Apart from those that might be described as “radical Mentalisms” (i.e., discourses that consider learning only in terms of transferring information into the learner), Activity- and Experience-Focused Discourses are common across virtually all modern conceptions of learning and teaching. That said, the rationales for activity and experience differ dramatically, with one extreme casting it as little more than opportunity to consolidate mental constructs through practice and illustration, and another extreme equating one’s action/doing with one’s learning/knowing. Almost all Activity- and Experience-Focused Discourses make reference to Problem Solving, albeit in very different and often incompatible ways:
  • Problem Solving – a phrase that is used to label many different emphases and practices within discussions of learning and teaching. Most commonly, Problem Solving refers to engagement with non-routine exercises, which is typically seen to support Deep Learning (see Deep vs. Surface Learning) through contextualizing subject matter while requiring learners to think divergently. Opinions vary dramatically over what constitutes good teaching practice around Problem Solving, but empirical evidence points toward precision (and/or opportunities to seek clarity), nuanced scaffolding, instruction in decomposing complicated scenarios, tight linkages to current topics of study, personal relevance, and appropriate social supports,


Activity- and Experience-Focused Discourses are part of common sense in contemporary formal education. Few would argue against attending to them – and this superficial point of agreement across discourses masks yawning and debilitating divides in belief and practice.


  • Problem Solving

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Activity- and Experience-Focused Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

⇦ Back to Map
⇦ Back to List