Postcognitivist Discourses




Interpreting learning in terms of co-evolutionary dynamics

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … vibrant, viable complex forms/systems
  • Knowing is … surviving
  • Learner is … a vibrant, adaptive phenomenon
  • Learning is … evolving
  • Teaching is … occasioning, triggering




Postcognitivist Discourses are ones that reject those movements that frame cognition in terms of symbolic manipulation and information processing, such as Cognitivism, Information Processing Theory, and other Brain-as-Computer Discourses. Postcognitivist Discourses include a wide range of perspectives and foci, but they are united in at least two important principles. Firstly, they invoke evolutionary dynamics to describe and explain learning. (Importantly, among earlier Postcognitivist Discourses, evolutionary processes tended to be invoked as metaphors or analogies. More recently, the trend has been toward open assertions that learning is, literally, an evolutionary process.) Secondly, all are compatible with Complex Systems Research, even those discourses that predate this research by decades.


Most criticisms of Postcognitivist Discourses come from outside of scientific domains, and typically boil down to either a rejection of evolutionary theory or a lack of understanding of complexity science. Because both are rooted in a lack of scientific knowledge, neither is worth explicating in detail here.

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

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