Rethinking Learning: What the Interdisciplinary Science Tells Us

Na’ilah Suad Nasir*, Carol D. Lee, Roy Pea, Maxine McKinney de Royston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Theories of learning developed in education and psychology for the past 100 years are woefully inadequate to support the design of schools and classrooms that foster deep learning and equity. Needed is learning theory that can guide us in creating schools and classrooms where deep learning occurs, where learners’ full selves are engaged, and that disrupt existing patterns of inequality and oppression. In this article, we build on recent research in education, neuroscience, psychology, and anthropology to articulate a theory of learning that has the potential to move us toward that goal. We elaborate four key principles of learning: (1) learning is rooted in evolutionary, biological, and neurological systems; (2) learning is integrated with other developmental processes whereby the whole child (emotion, identity, cognition) must be taken into account; (3) learning is shaped in culturally organized practice across people’s lives; and (4) learning is experienced as embodied and coordinated through social interaction. Taken together, these principles help us understand learning in a way that foregrounds the range of community and cultural experiences people have throughout the life course and across the multiple settings of life and accounts for learning as set within systems of injustice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-565
Number of pages9
JournalEducational Researcher
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • cognitive processes/development
  • diversity
  • equity
  • learning environments
  • learning processes/strategies
  • mixed methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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