How this book is organised

This book outlines the elements of the science of education. It is a distillation of the main ideas at the core of the discipline, that body of knowledge that concerns itself with human learning. As such, it is just as concerned with the art of teaching and the very practical processes of engaging with learners. It is supplemented by a website ( that includes extracts from key texts and supplementary materials.

Guiding narrative

This is our outline of the science and discipline of education. Each chapter is divided into three stages: the ‘didactic’ education that was typical of mass, institutionalised education from its beginnings in the nineteenth century; ‘authentic’ education, which rose to prominence in the twentieth century; and the theory and practice of a New Learning that is typical of innovative educational practices today. This division is roughly chronological – roughly, because much of the past remains present. We live in a state of what might be called ‘uneven change’. In this sense, the three stages in each chapter are more importantly analytical than they are chronological, each stage rep- resenting a perspective or approach. Each chapter works its way though a number of dimensions of education. One chapter after another, the main narrative cycles around this threefold stage structure, progressively building a many-dimensional picture of the trajectory of change in education and a wide variety of educational paradigms or ways of thinking.

This book covers an enormously wide ground. For practical reasons, we provide three kinds of navigational aid to help you through the text. Each chapter begins with an overview, which summarises the main points. The main narrative is then divided into small parts with a structure of subheadings so you can locate particular ideas easily. There are three main subheadings in each chapter, covering the three stages in the argument and culminating in our case for New Learning. Within each of these three sections, we come back to the various dimensions of the area of education dis- cussed in that chapter. Finally, each chapter ends with a summary table that captures the three stages in the argument (the columns) and shows the intersections with the various dimensions of education discussed in the chapter (the rows).


It is in the nature of science to create a technical language that is more precise in its meanings than everyday language. This technical language may at first seem unclear, particularly when precise meanings are confused with commonsense meanings. For this reason, every chapter has a keywords section where you can look up technical terms that have been introduced in that chapter. A full, alphabetically ordered glossary of keywords is to be found at

Knowledge processes

This book introduces many of the ways in which teachers can help learners engage with learning. It also suggests that you try them out as a learner and teacher yourself. We want to encourage you to be a knowledge-maker and a learner. For this reason, each chapter has supporting ‘knowledge processes’, to be found at Here, we suggest lines of inquiry and research you might pursue to build your own understanding of the science of education. In other words, this section is an invitation to be a scientist yourself, to build your own knowledge.

Supplementary web materials

We want to expose those coming newly to the discipline of education to different points of view representing a range of theoretical perspectives across the discipline of education, from different eras and from different parts of the world. These are mentioned and cited at relevant points in the text, and can be found on the web at Some of these texts address theoretical questions (and are often difficult to read if you are unfamiliar with the disciplinary genre they represent – but being intellectually challenged, even to the point of having to move beyond your comfort zone, is a part of the learning process). Other texts are more practical and descriptive, and thus more accessible. Either way, these are original sources. We wanted you to hear people speaking in their own voices, rather than tell you what we think they are saying.