A meta-model for learning

I recently read an article which described a conceptual framework for mediated environments (Childs 2010). The model augments Activity Theory (Cole, Engeström et al. 1997) (subject, objected, Mediating Artefacts, division of labour, community, and rules and conventions), with two aspects of  Wenger’s Community of Practice (Wenger 1998) (presence and identity) (Figure 1).

merm.jpg Figure 1

The paper reminded me of the meta-model for learning (Figure 2) we developed about ten years ago (Conole, Dyke et al. 2004). The model consists of three dimensions of learning:

  • Learning individually or learning sociably
  • Learning through information or through experience
  • Non-reflective versus reflection learning. 


Figure 2

Non-reflective learning needs unpacking. If I am driving across America, sub-consciously I am learning about American culture. If I am sitting in a bar in Spain, I am improving my Spanish through the conversations going on around me. It is what Jarvis calls ‘pre-conscious’ learning.

The model can be used in two ways. Firstly, as a means of mapping an activity using a particular tool. For example a reflective blog would be individual, experience-based and reflective, whereas a group blog aggregating resources for a course would be social, information based and reflective. Secondly, it can be used to map different pedagogical models. Three examples are illustrated in Figures 3-5. 


Figure 3






 Figure 4slide4.jpg

 Figure 5



Childs, M. (2010). “A conceptual framework for mediated environments.” Educational Researcher 52(2).

Cole, M., Y. Engeström, et al. (1997). Mind, culture, and activity: Seminal papers from the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, Cambridge Univ Pr.           

Conole, G., M. Dyke, et al. (2004). “Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design.” Computers and Education 43(1-2): 17-33.

Wenger, E. (1998). “Communities of practice: Learning as a social system.” Systems thinker 9(5): 1–5.





5 Responses to “A meta-model for learning”

  1. Mark Childs Says:

    Glad to see you passing on the model to everyone. It sank without trace at the time, but I actually find it really useful for segmenting activities, spaces and so on. Maybe more people might start adopting it. Theoretically it should be possible to merge the two models. Another model you might be interested in is the cybergogy model of Lesley Scopes (an example of how wrapped up in virtual worlds I’ve got is that I had to search on Lesley’s avatar name - Light Sequent - because I’d forgotten her RL name) http://www.academia.edu/1948242/Cybergogy_as_a_framework_for_teaching_design_students_in_virtual_worlds she has cognitive, social, dextrous and emotional axes. As you know from my stuff I think dexterity in technology is the first step to further things such as immersion and self-presence, so can see how that side of my work would tie in with the Scopes model. Then we just need to blend in the two you’re talking about here, and maybe one or two others we might spot along the way, and we should be able to put the whole educational world into one neat diagram. :-)

  2. Mark Childs Says:

    Oh and I think how your model here would fit into Activity Theory is that these are ways to define the “object” element, since these are ways to characterise the “problem space” of the activity. The other corners of the cube then just need equally smart ways to characterise them.

  3. Gráinne Says:

    Thought you were on a plane Mark! Thanks for the comments and for your paper reminding me of this model. I agree I think it is a useful way of looking at things. *Like* your idea of a diagram summing up Ed Tech :-)

  4. Fiona Chatteur Says:

    “Pre-conscious” learning could be mapped to Kolb’s “Apprehension”. You learn by being embedded into a situation - through the senses. So maybe “situated learning” might be a phrase we use here.
    Looking at this informal learning could also play a role here - where the “social” aspect could have another axis “collaboration”, because people can learn both socially and collaboratively - they are discreet propositions. Social learning respresents accepted norms and societal rules, and collaboration signifys intent - or group learning activities. Informal learning could sit somewhere between individual and information at the other end of the “social” learning axis.
    These could all play a part in mediated learning - the information we discover while searching for something else - As Dr Rob Saunders put it when he created a curious agent on computers - searching for “sex” and ending up learning about God.

  5. Gráinne Says:

    Hi Fiona nice thoughts! Agree maybe that apprehension might equate to non-reflective. Also agree with your other points. In another variant I have informal-formal as a dimension. The limits of living in 3D! ;-)

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