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Understandings of understanding: An inquiry concerning experiential conditions for developmental learning

Publiceringsår: 1999
Språk: Engelska
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Göteborg Studies in Educational Sciences
Volym: 134
Dokumenttyp: Doktorsavhandling
Förlag: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis


This thesis is about understandings of understanding and has developed from previous research on study skill and conceptions of learning among participants in various forms of education. The purpose was to investigate understandings of understanding as a phenomenon and the significance of understanding of understanding for learning.

The investigation involved 101 persons between 12 and 75 years of age from four different forms of education. The data was produced in two steps. In the first, the participants wrote a narrative about an occasion when they experienced that they had understood something. In the second, 8–10 participants out of each group were selected and participated in a subsequent interview about the meaning of understanding. The results were constituted through two interpretative turns. Data was analysed with reference to forms of understanding, types and conceptions of understanding and a selection of the cumulated contribution of four participants was also analysed as expressions for differently advanced forms of consciousness of understanding and their significance.

The enquiry resulted in a description of three different ways of understanding understanding as a phenomenon. Understanding emerged as: 1) a reception of new knowledge either through observation or information; 2) an acquisition of desired knowledge through relatively successful completion of deliberate learning activity; and: 3) realisation of a new truth on the basis of experience and interpretations of experience. This was the first part of the findings. Regarding the second, the different understandings expressed by four participants, this indicated that performance of learning activity that involves development of more advanced systematic understanding as an essential objective, requires relatively sophisticated understandings of understanding. It also sug-gests that the development of understanding is guided by the conversations about learning and understanding that are developed in different pedagogical practices.

The conclusion is that relatively comprehensive and formal education, is a necessary but not sufficient precondition for the development of experiential prerequisites for deliberate developmental learning. In addition, the education must also make provisions so the learner may also realise that all human understanding is finite and contingent.


Mölndal, Sweden
  • Dai Hounsell


  • Educational Sciences
  • understanding
  • experience
  • activity
  • learning
  • explanation


  • ISBN: 91-7346-349-3

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