Discourses on Individual Learning in Group Settings


Exploring and exploiting collective settings and tasks to support individual learning

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of possible actions and interpretations
  • Knowing is … contributing appropriately
  • Learner is … a collaborator
  • Learning is … developing understanding and/or skill
  • Teaching is … supervising, facilitating, guiding




Discourses on Individual Learning in Group Settings are concerned with matters of designing tasks, designating roles, and structuring contexts in ways that support the developments of individuals’ conceptual understandings and soft (social) skills. Emblematic instances of Discourses on Individual Learning in Group Settings – that is, discourses that incorporate advice and insights from virtually every other discourse in the cluster – include:
  • Collaborative Constructivism – an umbrella notion that applies to any discourse on teaching that combines a focus on individual sense-making with collective-based support and validation of that sense-making
  • Cognitively Guided Instruction (1990s) – a model for teaching based on student knowledge and performance, with a strong emphasis on group process in which learners’ methods and solutions are encouraged over imposed procedures
  • Engaged Learning (North Central Regional Education Laboratory, 1990s) – a model for teaching that advocates for a focus on learning through multidisciplinary, real-world projects that involve learners with diverse others in all aspects of design, implementation, and assessment
  • Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Lessons (POGIL) (The POGIL Project; 2010s) – a mashup of several principles drawn from Non-Trivial Constructivisms and Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses, including teacher-as-facilitator/guide, tasks grounded in real-life experiences, emphasis on meaningful/practical applications, learner choice, student agency, critical engagement, self-managed teams, and an emphasis on the Learning Cycle Metaphor
  • Reality Pedagogy (Christopher Emdin, 2010s) – a mashup of several principles that are prominent among Discourses on Individual Learning in Group Settings, with “5 C’s” serving as the core of the discourse: Cogenerative (collective) Dialogues; Coteaching (i.e., with students); Cosmopolitanism (student agency); Context (extending beyond the classroom); Content (in relationship to learner knowledge)
Because discourses in this cluster are concerned simultaneously with individuality and collectivity, they tend to share many constructs. However, the emphases afforded those constructs vary considerably across discourses – so much so that they can be used to distinguish among discourses:
  • Collectivism – perceiving of the individual as not just a member of a larger group, but as an integral element of a larger whole
  • Individualism – an attitude that emphasizes (and, in more extreme versions, privileges) the individual’s rights, choices, beliefs, and relationships
  • Interpersonal – an adjective applied mainly to interactions (and the communicative and social skills that enable those interactions)
  • Interpersonal Learning Group – an umbrella notion that can be applied to any group that is formed for reasons that include improving self-understanding and social relationships
  • Intersubjective – meaning “between subjectivity,” the adjective Intersubjective applies to situations where multiple individuals share personal experiences and interpretations in ways intended to influence one another’s understandings and attitudes


With the rise in prominence of Collectivist Learning Theories since the 1970s, advice to educators has split into two principal streams: Discourses on Individual Learning in Group Settings and Discourses on Learning Collectives. The former cluster is encountered much more frequently in both professional and research literatures – which shouldn’t be surprising, given the popular tendency to conflate “learner” with “individual.”


  • Cognitively Guided Instruction
  • Collaborative Constructivism
  • Collectivism
  • Engaged Learning
  • Individualism
  • Interpersonal
  • Interpersonal Learning Group
  • Intersubjective
  • Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Lessons (POGIL)
  • Reality Pedagogy

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Discourses on Individual Learning in Group Settings” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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