Domain-General Learning


Specialized domains in the brain and nervous system

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … established patterns of brain activity
  • Knowing is … current brain activity
  • Learner is … a brain-centered organism
  • Learning is … transforming the brain
  • Teaching is … triggering transformations of the brain




Domain-General Learning is a principle of brain development. Often contrasted perspectives that assert that brains are highly modularized (e.g., Modularity of Mind), Domain-General Learning assumes that human brains are less compartmentalized than many assume. Rather, while region-based specialization occurs, brains are capable of much more varied and nuanced learning than a module-based model might suggest, especially when interdependence of regions and domains is considered.


The contrast in assumptions and assertions between Modularity of Mind and Domain-General Learning is a microcosm of the broader contrast between Correspondence Discourses and Coherence Discourses. One theory is focused on making distinctions and defining mechanisms, and the other is concerned with understanding how elements work together to give rise to transcendent possibilities.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Jean Piaget; Charles Spearman

Status as a Theory of Learning

Domain-General Learning is a principle that is embraced by many theories of learning – indeed, it is assumed within virtually all Coherence Discourses – but it is not sufficiently comprehensive to be considered a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Domain-General Learning is not a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

The bulk of scientific evidence around questions on the brain’s modularity supports Domain-General Learning.

Map Location

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

⇦ Back to Map
⇦ Back to List