Gradual development of the specialized adult brain through interactions with context

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of possible actions and interpretations
  • Knowing is … functioning (triggered by and adequate to the situation)
  • Learner is … a brain
  • Learning is … development (influence by multiple levels of development)
  • Teaching is … N/A




Neurosconstructivism is articulated as a critique of popular beliefs that the brain is innately modularized. Neurosconstructivism sees specialization of brain regions – and, consequently, learning and competence – not as a consequence of genetic predetermination but in terms of various sorts of interaction that channel development. It offers a developmental approach, asserting that gene–gene and gene–environment interactions contribute to the emergence of module-like structures. The theory thus presents an alternative to prevailing assumptions that (dis)abilities are directly linked to brain modules while offering an explanation for why some individuals with impairments in specific areas do not manifest expected disabilities. (Contrast Modularity of Mind and the Medical Model of (Dis)Ability.)


To date, criticisms of Neurosconstructivism has principally come from the perspectives that it criticizes – and so foci and perspectives of commentaries are predictable.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Annette Karmiloff-Smith

Status as a Theory of Learning

Neurosconstructivism is among an emerging cluster of theories that reframes learning in terms of maintaining coherence in and across multiple entangled levels of organization. That is, Neurosconstructivism is a theory of learning, but understanding it as one requires an abandonment of many commonsense assumptions and beliefs.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Neurosconstructivism is not a theory of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Neurosconstructivism is an emerging theory. It has strong theoretical support through its associations with Embodiment Discourses and Eco-Complexity Discourses, and it has strong empirical support through its associations with Neuroscience and Cognitive Science. However, a broad and vibrant scientific research program has not yet emerged around the theory.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2021). “Neuroconstructivism” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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