Philosophical Accounts of Learning

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Journal Article
Educational Philosophy and Theory, 2005, 37 (5), pp. 649 - 666
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There is an influential story about learning that retains a grip on the public mind. Main elements of this story include: the best learning resides in individual minds not bodies; it centres on propositions (true, false; more certain, less certain); such learning is transparent to the mind that has acquired it; so the acquisition of the best learning alters minds not bodies. Implications of these basic ideas include: the best learning can be expressed verbally and written down in books, etc.; the process and product of learning can be sharply distinguished; and, though residing in minds and books, the best learning can be applied, via bodies, to alter the external world. The pervasive influence of this story is apparent in many writings about learning, including philosophical writings. A number of basic assumptions about learning underpin this story. The central purpose of this paper is to further delineate and then challenge each of these basic assumptions. The main implication of challenging these basic assumptions is that a somewhat different philosophical understanding of learning emerges. This different understanding of learning may offer fresh insights on current educational issues.
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