Publication Details

This book chapter is published as Fox, C, Learning in new times: globilisation, learning and the postcolonial condition, in Kell, P, Vialle, W, Konza, D and Vogl, G (eds), Learning and the learner: exploring learning for new times, University of Wollongong, 2008, 236p. Complete book available here.


The learning environment is a significant focus for both educational practice and theorising. Although the term learning environment is used widely, it is used inconsistently and is under- or poorly-theorised. At the same time, there have been a number of interesting developments in curriculum and pedagogy, such as authentic curriculum, situated curriculum, rich tasks, productive pedagogies and new learning, that call for fresh and typically more complex approaches to curriculum, pedagogy, learning and organization. Recent theorizing in realist philosophy of science and social science is developing social theory in ways that provide useful insights into these matters. These insights critique behaviourist and constructivist models commonly used in education, and point to a realist, specifically a critical realist or what could be called a constructivist realist, alternative.2 In this view, the learning environment is not merely the context of learning but, more significantly, is the set of conditions that enable and constrain learning. Together these elements show the classroom/excursion site to be empirically and theoretically inadequate, and ripe for a realist reconceptualisation as a broader concept, the Learning Environment.

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