Coherence Discourses


Understanding truths as necessary elements of a systematically coherent whole

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … ecosystem of interdependent forms
  • Knowing is … doing, being
  • Learner is … an evolving coherence
  • Learning is … adapting, becoming
  • Teaching is … coupled engagement


Ancient, but only over the past few centuries as a prominent movement


Coherence Discourses are perspectives on learning that regard distinctions and descriptions as useful devices to make sense of the complex dynamics of learning, but it cautions that such devices are mere heuristic conveniences. Truths are not cast in terms of correspondences (e.g., between theories and actuality, or between subjective models and objective reality), but as coherences – that is, propositions that are part of a system, elements that contribute to and rely on a larger whole, interpretations that constitute a consistent, extensive body. A statement is true to the extent that it is a viable element of a systemically coherent whole. In other words, Coherence Discourses suggest that truths do not exist independently or outside of a system – which is a commentary on humans’ understanding of reality, not a commentary on reality. Most Coherence Discourses employ biological and ecological metaphors, with dynamics framed in evolutionary terms and relationships framed in the vocabulary of couplings, complementarities, and nestings. Learning is typically interpreted as a continuous, iterative process.


The reasonableness of the notion of Coherence Discourses (as contrasted with (Correspondence Discourses) has been debated for well over a century, especially among philosophers and mathematicians. There is no consensus, but opinion has evolved toward Coherence Discourses across most domains.

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Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Coherence Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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