Psyche-Focused Discourses


Attending to the many and varied considerations associated with the individual learner

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … scope of possible actions and interpretations
  • Knowing is … appropriate action and interpretation
  • Learner is … an individual human
  • Learning is … developing; expanding possibilities; establishing coherence
  • Teaching is … caring; guiding




Psyche-Focused Discourses are concerned with individual knowing, doing, and being. They are distinguished from “psychology discourses” in the fact that Psyche-Focused Discourses frame the individual human as a system nested among other systems – and so Psyche-Focused Discourses operate in conversation with domains that attend to neurological, physiological, social, cultural, and ecological dynamics. That is, the individual human is not seen as a hermetically sealed entity, but as a dynamic system that shapes and is shaped by other dynamic systems across many levels of organization. Constructs and discourses that are common across Psyche-Focused Discourses include:
  • Anticipatory Learning (Curious Learning; Ideo-Motor Principle of Learning) – the idea that one’s learning is influenced by one’s desires, intentions, and predictions – because such anticipations affect attention and perception
  • Proactive Learning – contrasted with Reactive Learning (below), learning that is driven by a need or desire to be prepared for as-yet unencountered circumstances and situations
  • Reactive Learningcontrasted with Proactive Learning (above), learning from experience, often through trial and error
  • Significant Learning – a generic term, typically used to describe personally meaningful educational activities, important insights into oneself, and/or realizations on personal and social implications of other learnings


Discussions of learning in education have been dominated by psychology for almost two centuries. In fact, for several decades in the mid-1900s, education was commonly defined as an “applied psychology.” That detail shouldn’t be surprising, given that public schooling was almost universally organized around the assumption that the individual human – that is, the focus of psychological inquiry – was the fundamental unit of learning. In the last decades of the 20th century, that assumption started to give way to the realization that the individual is only one among many systems/levels that educators must consider and address. That insight was enabled by surges of interest in Sociology, cultural studies, ecology, and other systems-oriented discourses. In the growing conversation, Psyche-Focused Discourses maintain a dominating presence, but that presence that is tempered by realization that collectives unfold from and are enfolded in individuals.


  • Anticipatory Learning (Curious Learning; Ideo-Motor Principle of Learning)
  • Proactive Learning
  • Reactive Learning
  • Significant Learning

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Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2023). “Psyche-Focused Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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