Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses


Attending to the collective aspects of human knowledge, activity, and identity

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … actions and interpretations that have been collectively developed and sanctioned
  • Knowing is … situationally appropriate actions and interpretations
  • Learner is … a participant in a collective
  • Learning is … becoming a more expert participant
  • Teaching is … modeling (i.e., acting as a more-expert agent while involving learners in culturally relevant experiences)




Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses tend to operate from the assumption that collective knowing unfolds from and is enfolded in individual knowers. Consequently, most of these discourses attend the situated learner and/or the collective learning system – rather than the individual learner. Matters that figure prominently include context, participation, collaboration, ethics, democratic obligation, and tacit norms – often coupled to desires and efforts to prompt critical awareness. In the context of education, a popular notion associated with Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses is:
  • Appropriation of Knowledge (1990s) – Drawing on both Embodiment Discourses and Embeddedness Discourses, Appropriation of Knowledge is seen to occur when the individual has selected aspects of cultural knowledge and adapted them in ways that are personally meaningful and useful.


Socio-Cultural-Focused Discourses began to press into the field of education in the 1960s, spurred by social movements and academic discussions that foregrounded the collective (and often oppressive) character of knowledge. That historical moment represented a sharp turn in cultural sensibilities around the production and perpetuation of “truth,” as it was made evident that most cultural knowledge was not inscribed in the universe. Rather, it was principally a matter of social accord. The cultural enterprise of formal education was thus implicated in the project of perpetuating such knowledge, and this realization was key in prompting a shift away from seeing schooling in terms of preparing children for adult lives toward seeing schooling as an ethical obligation to involve learners as active participants in (vs. passive recipients of) cultural knowledge.


  • Appropriation of Knowledge

Map Location

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

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