Interpreting learning in terms of transformations and differences

Principal Metaphors

As developed in the Synopsis, below, Change is universally seen as an aspect or an indicator of learning, but there is scant agreement on what changes or how change happens. That means that metaphors for knowledge, knowing, learners, and teaching are all dependent on specific discourses, and the only element that makes sense to mention here is:
  • Learning is … change




Perhaps the solitary point of agreement across all the discourses on learning reviewed on this site is that learning involves Change. That said, Change appears to be invoked in three distinct ways:
  • Change as part of a literal description of learning: Most often, Change is used literally – that is, something is asserted to change when learning happens. Exactly what that something is varies dramatically across discourses. Below is a partial list of phenomena posited to change:
  • Change as a synonym for learning: In some discourses, “learning” is used interchangeably with a synonym of “change.” In most of these cases, the phenomenon that is seen to be changing is the learner. A partial list includes:


Given the different ways that Change is used across discourses on learning (as indicated above), this entry is difficult to locate on our map. We have included it among Ubiquitous Metaphors of Learning because it is invoked in every single one of our entries, even though not all usages can be immediately identified as metaphorical.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences


Status as a Theory of Learning/Teaching

As indicated above, Change is invoked across both Correspondence Discourses and Coherence Discourses, and it appears to be as prominent among discourses on influencing learning (i.e., teaching) as it is among discourses on interpreting learning – meaning that it spans our vertical axis as well. Concisely, while Change is most often articulated as a principle of (or a synonym to) learning, within discussions of education it appears to be as much about teaching as it is about learning.

Status as a Scientific Theory

As it is more a principle than a theory or discourse, efforts to assess the scientific status of Change only make sense within the discourses in which it is invoked – that is, and with some irony, in terms of the ways it is used in association with other principles.  

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Change” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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