Necessary Conditions of Learning presents a research approach (phenomenography) and a theory (the variation theory of learning) introduced and developed by Ference Marton and taken up by his wide and varied following around the world—together with their practical applications in educational contexts. Reflecting Marton’s whole lifetime's work, the unique and significant contribution of this book is to offer an evidence-based answer to the questions "How do we make novel meanings our own?" and "How do we learn to see things in more powerful ways?"
The presentation makes use of hundreds of empirical studies carried out in Europe and Asia which build on the theory. The line of reasoning and the way in which the examples are put together is consistent with the theory—it is both presented and applied. The main argument is that in order to learn we have to discern, and to discern the intended ideas we must be presented with carefully structured variation, against a background of invariance. We then go through processes of contrast, generalization, and fusion in order to make sense. These insights form a practical framework for those who design teaching and teaching materials. Necessary Conditions of Learning is a major original work for which scholars of pedagogical theory have been waiting a long time.
"Marton has provided an outstanding exposition of his lifetime’s thought. Through describing research and teaching in a variety of subjects he exemplifies the theory of learning through discernment of variation. This stimulating and scholarly book acts both as a handbook for design of teaching and teaching materials, and as a basis for understanding more about learning in educational contexts."
Anne Watson, University of Oxford, UK
1. What makes humans human?
The species that teaches its offspring
The origin of pedagogy
Learning from others
Learning as a by-product and learning as an aim
Pedagogies of learning
Teachers’ professional knowledge
What this book is about
2. What is to be learned?
What is to be learned?
Learning as differentiation
Different meanings of what is to be learned
3. Sameness and difference in learning
The problem with direct reference
Discerning features that have been discerned previously
Discerning features that have not been discerned previously
We do have to learn to discern features whether or not they are innate
Learning to discern novel features and aspects
Dimensions of variation, and values*
Neither from the specific to the general, nor the other way around
Patterns of variation and invariance
The path of learning
Critical aspects and critical features again
Why is the experience of difference, against a background of the experience
of sameness, necessary for learning to discern novel features and novel
Differences and experienced differences
Discernment, difference, simultaneity
Discerning and learning to discern
Using the known to prepare for the unknown
The transfer of learning
4. What does the world look like to others?
The revelation of Jonas Emanuelsson
What is to be learned, again: Ways of seeing
Finding critical aspects
The learner’s perspective and the observer’s perspective
Logic and understanding
The idea of phenomenography
Qualitative differences in learning, specific to specific objects of learning
5. The art of learning
Learners generating patterns of variation and invariance
Discoveries as discernments
Innovations and the opening up of new dimensions of variation
Finding novel meanings
6. Making learning possible
Three faces of the object of learning
Necessary conditions of necessary conditions of learning
The origin of differences
Relating learning and teaching to each other
Bringing about learning: Patterns of variation and invariance as tools for
planning and conducting teaching
Bringing learning about: Implementing patterns of variation and
Bringing about learning: The order of things
Hierarchical and sequential structure in reading and writing
Can the "art of learning" be learned?
There are no teaching experiments
Putting conjectures to the test
The Chinese connection
7. Learning to help others to learn
What teachers have to be good at