This book studies learning as a social enterprise, contextually situated, organized and assessed. It gives a broad theoretic grounding for an understanding of learning which goes beyond a common reductionist approach. The book discusses four related approaches to learning which share a social perspective: social semiotics and multimodality; a design-theoretic approach to learning; a socio-cultural perspective; and a perspective of mimetic learning.

Contributing authors consider the theoretical question of how to understand educational systems, learning and social communication as historically situated practices. The chapters in this book analyze key working practices including: 

  • analyzing what learning, remembering and cognitive work is like in a practice involving different kinds of expertise;
  • problem-solving and engaging through collaboration;
  • learning and teaching in different formal, semi- and non-formal environments;
  • a design-theoretic approach to learning;
  • social semiotic perspectives on learning; 
  • the mimetic and ritual dimension of learning;
  • how social learning can be organized to support students;
  • how learning has been conceptualized in psychology and neighbouring research areas.


This book will be of great interest to students and researchers interested in learning and meaning-making, multimodal representations and communication, designs for learning, education and teaching, and social achievement in different formal and non-formal contexts.

chapter |11 pages


The social significance of learning
ByStaffan Selander, Roger Säljö, Christoph Wulf

chapter 1|18 pages

Our business is problem-solving

Learning, remembering and inscriptions at the IT helpdesk
ByÅsa Mäkitalo, Ann-Charlotte Bivall, Roger Säljö

chapter 2|40 pages

Designs for learning – designs in learning

ByStaffan Selander, Eva Insulander, Anna-Lena Kempe, Fredrik Lindstrand, Tore West

chapter 3|33 pages

A social semiotic perspective on learning

Transformative engagement in a changing world
ByGunther Kress, Jeff Bezemer, Sophia Diamantopoulou, Carey Jewitt, Diane Mavers

chapter 4|43 pages

Learning as a performative social process

Mimesis, ritual, materiality and subjectivation
ByChristoph Wulf, Birgit Althans, Kathrin Audehm, Juliane Engel

chapter 5|23 pages

The conceptualization of learning in learning research 1

From introspectionism and conditioned reflexes to meaning-making and performativity in situated practices
ByRoger Säljö