Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

James Anthony Whitson

Second Advisor

William Doll


In this dissertation I attempt to construct a framework for an alternate theory of instruction, starting from the position that education has no theory of learning; instead, what passes for theories of learning are actually descriptions of the conditions under which knowledge is acquired. Descriptive theorizing does not serve education well because it is not likely, being a description of what is known told in terms of assumed categories, to be generative or adaptive. I question the naturalness of current assumptions about thought and learning by tracing the consolidation of the present discursive formation around a presumed unity of logic, language, and causality based on the forms of geometry. A crucial move in that consolidation was Descartes' formulation of thought as essentially logical. As our culture deals with the contradictions inherent in this formulation, new disciplines of knowledge arise. Most interestingly for education, the new disciplines of cognitive science and artificial intelligence have pushed the idea that humans are "computers," that we reason by calculation, to the breaking point. It has become increasingly obvious that humans cannot think according to the forms of logic and connectionist theories which propose alternate images of mind are gaining ascendance. The implications for education are large. I extensively explore the implications of connectionist modeling for a distinctively educational model of learning. These connectionist theories substitute a shifting and uncertain web of associations for the solid storage metaphor common to most educational theorizing and methods. The stability which can no longer be located in the sovereign self must instead be found in the world and in the socially-based practices that constitute both the world and the individual. Situated cognition, pragmatists, and poststructural sociologists are explored to understand the new constellation surrounding learning. A short exploratory study, based on the principles that emerged from the study, of an alternate way to teach categories is experimentally explored and found successful. This work was extended to a computer-based implementation which allowed theoretical ideas concerning time and activity to be explored. Includes a Macintosh disk.