Immersion Metaphor


Unmediated and unintentional learning

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … sea of possibilities, external liquid
  • Knowing is … interpreting and/or acting in appropriate ways
  • Learner is … a sponge (individual)
  • Learning is … absorbing; soaking up
  • Teaching is … N/A


Ancient (entrenched in the language)


The Immersion Metaphor is typically invoked as a means to “explain” how learners come to manifest mannerisms, habits, and sensibilities of a broader community without obvious practice or deliberate teaching.


The Immersion Metaphor might be considered as an extension of the Acquisition Metaphor, developed to address nonconscious and nondeliberate learnings. It, of course, has no explanatory power – but can feel as though it fills a conceptual hole in a coherent way, since it shares the same core assumptions around separation of internal and external, materiality of knowledge, and so on. (See also Incidental Learning and In-/Non-Formal Learning.)

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

The Immersion Metaphor is another of those that has been evident in multiple western languages for many hundreds of years.

Status as a Theory of Learning

The Immersion Metaphor is included among Folk Theories of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

In a sense, the Immersion Metaphor is the opposite of a theory of teaching. It is typically evoked to make sense of learning that happens in absence of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

The Immersion Metaphor meets none of the requirements of a scientific theory.

Map Location

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

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