Discourses on Learning Collectives


Exploring and exploiting structures that support collective generation of new possibilities

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … situation-relevant actions and interpretations
  • Knowing is … effective contributions to joint activities
  • Learner is … a collective entity (defined by a purpose or a task)
  • Learning is … elaborating current possibilities
  • Teaching is … coaching, supporting




Discourses on Learning Collectives are concerned with matters of designing tasks, designating roles, and structuring situations in ways that support the maintenance and elaboration of teams, organizations, and other social collectives. Associated discourses include:
  • Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS) – communication, record-keeping, and other technologies designed to improve group processes – by, for example, signalling possible errors or unnecessary redundancies, facilitating interactions, and enabling quick voting.
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology (Business Psychology, Employment Psychology, Industrial Psychology, Management Psychology, Managerial PsychologyOrganizational Psychology, Work Psychology) – a branch of psychology that combines interests in individual behavior, group behavior, and organizational coherence/effectiveness
  • Open System Theory – a theory that views the organization as shaping and shaped by its environment. With regard to the former, the organization is seen as transforming inputs (i.e., human and physical resources) into outputs (i.e., goods and services) that influence the environment
  • Organization Studies (Organization Science; Organization Theories) (diffuse, 1960s) – a loosely structured, interdisciplinary domain with a focal interest in the relationship between collective activity and organizational viability
  • Organizational Behavior Management (Organizational Behavior Modification) – the extension and application of Applied Behavior Analysis across the levels of individuals, groups, and organizations, designed to address problems that emerge at the organizational level
  • Staffing Theory (formerly: Manning Theory) (Roger Barker, Paul Gump, 1960s) – a sociocultural- and ecological-informed discourse that focuses on organizational functioning associated with staffing, especially as related to over- and under-staffing
  • Team-Building (2010s) – a component of many collectivist-oriented discourses on learning. Team-Building focuses on establishing and maintaining “teamwork,” which is distinguished from “groupwork” and “cooperation.” That is, “teamwork” is generally regarded as a mode of collaboration in which all participants are invested, decision-making is mainly democratic, each member is able to work from their strengths, and duties are distributed respectfully. Concisely, a “team” is more a collective learner than a collection of learners.
  • Values Education – explicit schooling on principles of acting, moral standards, and ethical codes that define what is acceptable in an organization or community


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 education literatures, but the latter is more prominent in the world of business. That difference is perhaps unsurprising, given education’s legacy of focusing on individuals, which contrasts sharply business’s emphasis on continuous innovation.


  • Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS)
  • Industrial and Organizational Psychology (Business Psychology, Employment Psychology, Industrial Psychology, Management Psychology, Managerial Psychology, Organizational Psychology, Work Psychology)
  • Open System Theory
  • Organization Studies (Organization Science; Organization Theories)
  • Organizational Behavior Management (Organizational Behavior Modification)
  • Staffing Theory (Manning Theory)
  • Team-Building
  • Values Education

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Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2022). “Discourses on Learning Collectives” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.

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