In his writings Jim Marshall has helpfully emphasized such Wittgensteinian themes as the multiplicity of language games, the deconstruction of ‘certainty,’ and the contexts of power that underlie discursive systems. Here we focus on another important legacy of Wittgenstein's thinking: his insistence that human activity is rule-governed. This idea foregrounds looking carefully at the world of education and learning, as against the empirical search for new psychological or other facts. It reminds us that we need to consider, in Peter Winch's words, ‘what it makes sense to say’ about certain educational phenomena, and how these meanings stand against understanding a wider form of life. This insight has important implications for doing educational research, and we examine some of these.