‘On the Definition of Learning’

It is a pleasure to present this book, which is a product of the ‘On the definition of learning’-network. The network arose out of the aspiration to study the phenomenon of learning in depth and to understand its complex relationship to empirical investigation and teaching. This book is a result of the network’s first collective efforts to discuss these topics at a conference and a smaller seminar. All the chapters contribute in various ways to break new ground towards understanding how learning has been investigated in the past through the use of various tools, such as models, concepts and metaphors. Furthermore, they contribute to the discussion of how different conceptions of learning help educators and empirical researchers in their endeavor to optimize and identify learning respectively.


The first part (ch. 2-8) of the book concerned how various theories define and delimit the phenomenon of learning. In the second part (ch. 9-10) of the book the field of investigation and discussion is how to use research and knowledge in the field of learning theory to develop theories of teaching on the basis of practice. These discussions in the second part are further qualified and developed in the third part (ch. 11-12) of the book. The chapters in this part investigate the interplay between theories of learning, empirical research, and emerging practices of learning. The fourth part (ch. 13-16) of the book in a way cuts across the other parts. It discusses theoretical concepts, as well as aspects related to empirical investigation and to teaching. It consists of interviews with the four professors: Paul Cobb, Christopher Winch, Anna Sfard and Knud Illeris, all of whom kindly accepted the invitation to participate in the project.


Chapter 1, Ane Qvortrup, Merete Wiberg, Gerd Christensen & Mikala Hansbøl: “Introduction”

Chapter 2, Esben Nedenskov Petersen, Caroline Schaffalitzky de Muckadell and Rolf Hvidtfeldt Larsen: “What should we demand of a definition of ‘learning’?”

Chapter 3, Nina Bonderup Dohn: “Articulating a base for the development of a concept of learning”

Chapter 4, Merete Wiberg: “The normative aspect of learning”

Chapter 5, Oliver Kauffmann: “Realism and Learning”

Chapter 6, Steen Beck: “How we learn”

Chapter 7, Gerd Christensen: “’Situated learning’ – beyond apprenticeship and social constructionism”

Chapter 8, Klaus Nielsen: “On Defining Learning from a Social-Ontological Perspective”

Chapter 9, Ane Qvortrup & Tina Bering Keiding: ”The Mistake to Mistake Learning Theory with Didactics”

Chapter 10, Torben Spanget Christensen: ”Student notes as a mediating tool for learning in school subjects”

Chapter 11, Rie Troelsen: “What’s space to learning?”

Chapter 12, Maj Sofie Rasmussen: “Learning from a social practice theoretical perspective”

Chapter 13, Interview with Anna Sfard

Chapter 14, Interview with Paul Cobb,

Chapter 15, Interview with Christiopher Winch

Chapter 16, Interview with Knud Illeris