On generalization and variation theory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The variation theory developed by Marton has quickly become popular as a framework for providing guidance for making learning possible. However, the epistemological assumption behind the theory is often accepted without critical scrutiny. This paper poses an apparent problem of the possible occurrence of learning in the situation of generalization, where one aspect is kept invariant, while other aspects vary. Eventually some of the learners can learn the invariant aspect. However, variation theory entails that the experience of variation in an aspect is necessary for learners to discern that aspect. How then is it possible for the learners in a situation of generalization to fully discern the invariant aspect? Through scrutinizing the epistemological assumption, I hope to foster discussion toward further improvement of the theory. Copyright © 2013 Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)343-356
JournalScandinavian Journal of Educational Research
Issue number4
Early online dateMar 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013


Lam, H. C. (2013). On generalization and variation theory. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 57(4), 343-356.


  • Variation theory
  • Generalization
  • Classroom learning
  • Phenomenography


Dive into the research topics of 'On generalization and variation theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.