Learning Environment


Interrogating assumptions that frame educational practice

Principal Metaphors

Learning Environment is a discourse that asks educators to be attentive to underlying and implicit metaphors, and so it is inappropriate to align it with a specific cluster of associations.




Learning Environment is an umbrella notion that reaches across all aspects – philosophical, cultural, social, disciplinary, operational, physical, and so on – of a situation intended to support learning. It appears that the notion was developed to alert educators that a wide range of considerations is necessary to understand the assumptions on learning, learners, knowledge, and teaching that are being enacted in any given setting. Associated discourses include:
  • Place-Based Education (Pedagogy of PlaceCommunity-Based Education; Place-Conscious EducationThird Teacher) – This discourse is both an educational philosophy and a pedagogical approach that uses socio-geographical locations (deliberately inclusive of all their cultural, historical, and geophysical aspects) as a “partner” in formal education – that is, as a focus of inquiry, a source of curriculum, a dynamic teacher, and an active agent in the more-than-human world.
  • Learning Space (Learning Setting) – This subdiscourse of Learning Environment is specifically concerned with the physical settings in which teaching and learning happen – indoor or outdoor, actual or virtual, synchronous or asynchronous. That said, the discourse is dominated by assumptions of indoor, actual, and synchronous encounters, and so Learning Space tends to be preoccupied with such matters as physical comfort, aesthetics, lighting, acoustics, and technology.


In effect, Learning Environment is a discourse that calls educators to be mindful of the ranges of discourses that might be at play in their beliefs, attitudes, and practices. Phrased differently, Learning Environment might be construed as a metadiscourse, with very much the same intentions as this website – namely, to highlight that there are not “neutral” structures or “innocent” practices, and to assert that educators have some level of obligation to attend to the assumptions and belief systems that they act out.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences


Status as a Theory of Learning

Learning Environment asserts that all educational practice is oriented by practitioner beliefs, learner assumptions, physical settings, cultural expectations, and so on. That assertion prompts the conviction that, while Learning Environment is not itself a theory of learning, teachers and policy makers have an ethical obligation to be attentive to the principles and theories of learning that they enact in their practice.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Learning Environment is all about teaching – that is, it is intimately concerned with why teachers teach the way they teach. However, it is better construed as a metadiscourse on educational practice than a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

The literature around Learning Environment is wildly varied, ranging from uncritical treatments that draw on Folk Theories to deeply critical accounts that are indexed to Cognitive Science (and other robust discourses). Because of this variety, it is coded here as not entirely scientific.


  • Place-Based Education (Pedagogy of Place; Community-Based Education; Place-Conscious Education; Third Teacher)
  • Learning Space (Learning Setting)

Map Location

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

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