Phenomenological Psychology


Making meaning of subjective experience

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of possible experiences and meanings
  • Knowing is … meaning
  • Learner is … an experiencer (individual in social relationships)
  • Learning is … meaning-making
  • Teaching is … prompting reflection of meaning-making




Phenomenology is a methodology to study subjective experience – but, because its strategies and assertions are so intertwined, it is appropriate to consider it as a discourse on learning. A century ago, Phenomenology was foundational in raising awareness of and offering alternatives Folk Theories through its rejection of mind/body, self/other, and other commonsense dichotomies. Phenomenology investigates how bodily experience is part of cognition, how intersubjectivity arises, and how the person and the world are mutually constitutive.


Phenomenology begins with the convictions that “experience” is more complex than is commonly assumed and that Introspection can serve as the basis of a rigorous qualitative methodology. Criticisms of Phenomenology are typically focused on one of these two points, and usually the latter. Often criticisms are justified, as a great deal of research that is described as “phenomenological” falls short of the conceptual and methodological standards of the perspective.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Edmund Husserl; Jean-Paul Sartre; Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Status as a Theory of Learning

Phenomenology is more a methodology to study subjective experience than a theory of learning, but it has been generative of some key insights into learning that are integral to cutting edge Embodiment Discourses and Embeddedness Discourses.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Phenomenology is not a theory of teaching, although its emphases and methods have been adapted and used in therapy, to support self-awareness, and to inform teaching strategies.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Phenomenology is a core theoretical and methodological discourse in the human sciences. It is (1) explicit about focus, (2) aware of metaphors, (3) supported by a substantial body of validated evidence.

Map Location

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

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