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.


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.

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

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