The goal of this chapter is to offer as a discussion point a Deweyan perspective on learning and development that could contribute to ongoing conversations in the learning sciences (LS) regarding how we frame, and propose to understand, learning and development. Given that, according to one account (Kolodner, 2004), LS was founded in part on dissatisfaction with how we once studied learning in primarily clinical or contrived settings, it would appear appropriate that continued dialogue on how we come to theorize and understand learning and development would be appropriate. Over the past two decades plus, there have been occasional special issues in journals and critical reviews that corroborate this desire for continual investigation into what should define the field, what values one should hold, and how scholars in LS are expected to do their work (e.g., Barab & Squire, 2004; Brown, 1992; Meltzoff et al., 2009; Nathan & Alibali, 2010). The opportunities for exploration of LS foundations could be appropriate in venues such an edited volume, a special issue, or a journal article, but also at new faculty and doctoral student consortia at field-specific conferences as well as higher education classrooms where LS is covered in a single course or offered as an area of study in a newly formed degree program.
As an assemblage, LS defines a space in which dialogue circulates in the form of published papers, oral presentations, research reports, informal messages, and so on (see Lee, Yuan, Ye & Recker this volume; Packer & Maddox, this volume). Within this narrative constructs are put forward and claims are made about the specific kinds of objects of study recognized by LS. There are several strategies for tracing the network. One can follow key constructs, key texts, or key objects (see several offerings in this volume), but we will mention only the first (constructs). Again, companion chapters in this volume cover key texts and key objects.
Key constructs in LS provide a vocabulary in which knowledge claims about these objects are proposed, contested, and accepted or abandoned. Tracing these concepts sheds light on ways in which LS is dynamic and contested, rather than unified or homogeneous. Key constructs of LS we highlight to serve the overarching goals of this chapter are cognition and interaction. Cognition can be understood as the structures and processes of knowledge, so that the principal goal of teaching and learning is the transformation of cognition.