Learning and Awareness

Learning and Awareness

Learning and Awareness

Learning and Awareness


This book stems from more than 25 years of systematic research into the experience of learning undertaken by a research team trying to account for the obvious differences between more or less successful instances of learning in educational institutions. The book offers an answer in terms of the discovery of critical differences in the structure of the learner's awareness and critical differences in the meaning of the learner's world. The authors offer a detailed account of the empirical findings that give rise to theoretical insights, and discuss the particular form of qualitative research that has been employed and developed.

The form of learning that is the object of study is considered to be the most fundamental form -- namely a change in the learner's way of seeing, experiencing, handling, and understanding aspects of the world. The need for rigorous analysis of learning of specific subject matter, the individual construction of knowledge, and its social and cultural embeddedness -- the defining features of rival approaches into research on learning -- are reconciled from the approach adopted here into an intertwined and whole experience of learning. The learner's experience is always one of learning something, in some way, and in some context; by holding the learner's experience of learning as the focus of study throughout -- and not studying the learning of the content and the acts and the context as separate and distinct focuses -- the content, the act, and the context remain united as constituents of the learner's experience.

By empirically revealing critical differences in the ways of experiencing these aspects of learning, and by developing a theoretical framework for the dynamics through which change comes about in the learner's awareness, this book gradually leads the reader to a powerful new view of learning. Equipped with the analytical tools and conceptual apparatus to be found in this book, the reader will be empowered to learn and to assist others to learn by creating environments conducive to the most fundamental form of learning: experiencing aspects of the world in new ways.


One thing that people have in common is that they are all different. This disturbing sentence--whether considered conceptually or grammatically--boils down to this: People may be created equal, but they do things differently. There are other ways of putting it--for any one of the things people do, some do it better, others do it worse. To the extent they have learned to do that one thing, they must have learned to do it differently--some better, some worse. Rather, they have learned differently--some better, some worse--to do it. This is the starting point for our book: If one way of doing something can be judged to be better than another way, then some people must have been better at learning to do it--or have learned to do it better--than others.

Now, if we take that as our starting point, can we reasonably hope that by finding out what it takes to learn something we can make people dramatically better at learning it or make them learn it dramatically better? In the rest of this book, argue that it is, and point the way to revealing what it takes to learn the multiplicity of things we are expected to learn.

Inasmuch as we can learn different sorts of things, the notion of "what it takes to learn" has to be expressed in different forms. The question "What does it take to learn to do something?" is one form, "How do we gain knowledge about the world?" is another. The latter is the question we are going to address explicitly in this chapter. An answer would empower people to gain knowledge, as well as deeper knowledge, about the world, and it is to develop just such an answer, and just such an empowerment that is our goal in writing this book.


"How do we gain knowledge about the world?" can be seen as the epistemological form of the question "What does it take to learn?" Epistemology has to do with the question of gaining knowledge but also with the question of the truth value of the . . .

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