Situated learning

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Situated learning was first proposed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger as a model of learning in a community of practice. At its simplest, situated learning is learning that takes place in the same context in which it is applied. Lave and Wenger (1991)[1] argue that learning should not be viewed as simply the transmission of abstract and decontextualised knowledge from one individual to another, but a social process whereby knowledge is co-constructed; they suggest that such learning is situated in a specific context and embedded within a particular social and physical environment.

Lave and Wenger[edit]

Lave and Wenger assert that situated learning "is not an educational form, much less a pedagogical strategy".[2] However, since their writing, others have advocated different pedagogies that include situated activity:

Many of the original examples from Lave and Wenger[1] concerned adult learners, and situated learning still has a particular resonance for adult education. For example, Kimble and Hildreth[3] show how adult learners discover, shape, and make explicit their own knowledge through situated learning within a community of practice.

Situated learning was first projected by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger as a model of learning in a community of practice. This type of learning allows an individual (students/learner) to learn by socialization, visualization, and imitation. Learning begins with people trying to solve problems.[4] When learning is problem based, people explore real life situations to find answers, or to solve the problems. Hung’s study focuses on how important being social is to learning. In believing that learning is social, Hung adds that learners who gravitate to communities with shared interests tend to benefit from the knowledge of those who are more knowledgeable than they are. He also says that these social experiences provide people with authentic experiences. When students are in these real-life situations they are compelled to learn. Hung concludes that taking a problem-based learning approach to designing curriculum carries students to a higher level of thinking.[4]

"The pedagogy of the lifelong-learning era is evolving toward reliance on interaction. Sometimes this involves interacting with a rich technological environment such as a computer tutor or a game on the web and sometimes with other people by means of a computer network. The pedagogy of computer tutors echoes the apprenticeship model in setting individualized tasks for learners and offering guidance and feedback as they work." [5] Situated learning is becoming more involved with technology in ways to help individuals learn information differently than they have in the past. The model of learning a skill through technology mimics how individuals learned in the past from a professional in that skill. In the past when individuals learned about a particular topic it was done in person, in a hands-on environment. Technology makes it possible to do these same things using a computer or any other similar device. Interaction through the computer between individuals is one more way to make situated learning more successful as well as give students an opportunity to have another venue through which to learn. In fact, “an understanding of video games as learning environments is becoming increasingly important as gaming culture rivals schooling for the attention of children and adolescents across the world. James Paul Gee argues that the compelling nature of video game participation is in part due to the underlying social, cognitive, and developmental learning principles around which successful games are built. With this perspective, games and gaming can be a source for inspiration in building more effective learning environments.” [6] Allowing students to have the opportunity to participate, interact and inject their own ideas is a way to obviously grow and make informed decisions. Gee has proven this with the use of video games. It enables the learner to build their social and communication skills as well as develop their cognition abilities. Computer-based learning software such as SimCity has permitted users to utilize situated learning by allowing them to run their own city and become dictators whereby they have to make informed decisions which will either deteriorate their people or help them thrive. As stated, more effective learning environments are built this way.

“Instruction must be situated in an authentic context that resembles that of the classroom teacher to enrich their learning process by providing realistic experiences that more easily transfer.” [7] Students process information by visualizing, hearing, reasoning and reflecting so they tend to learn more easily by having models to go by or imitate. In some study cases, teachers have gone as far as to make the classroom environment as homey as possible, whether it is a computerized set up or a physical set up. It gives the students the look and feel of being at home in a comfortable setting which allows them to feel and learn freely. It has been proven to have a great impact on the students learning abilities. This is another innovative way of utilizing situated learning.

"When today's students enter their post-education professional lives, odds are pretty good that they will be asked to work with others from around the globe collaboratively to create content for diverse and wide-ranging audiences. Odds are also pretty good that they are going to need to read and write effectively in linked environments as they locate, analyze, remix, and share the best, most relevant content online for their own learning." [8] When students complete their education they will be expected to use the skills they have learned throughout their educational career in the professional career. It is imperative that they are able to sufficiently utilize these skills to complete work goals. Through situated learning students will be able to learn the skills and also be able to accurately use the skills they have learned. Situated learning allows students to gain experience through doing in some way and from this experience they are able to be productive in their lives after they have graduated.

When students complete their education they will be expected to use the skills they have learned throughout their educational career in the professional career. It is imperative that they are able to sufficiently utilize these skills to complete work goals. Through situated learning students will be able to learn the skills and also be able to accurately use the skills they have learned. Situated learning allows students to gain experience through doing in some way and from this experience they are able to be productive in their lives after they have graduated.

Situated learning continues after graduation. "Almost any job-related skill can be taught by practicing the skill, and computer simulations can create immersive environments where the target skills are necessary for solving engaging problems." [9] In situations where situated learning is not possible, simulations can offer an alternative way to provide employees with an authentic learning experience. Situated learning allows employees to immediately apply what they've learned in the context of performing job-related tasks. Learning occurs among peers who perform the same function. Problem-solving and the generation of new ideas can be better supported in a social learning environment where all of the stakeholders experience the positive effects of ongoing learning. Often, the benefits of situated learning extend well beyond the immediate group of practitioners throughout the organization and the broader community. Richardson notes that, in an educational setting, teachers can use collaborative technologies in their own practice in order to gain a better understanding about how to integrate these technologies in the classroom.[8]

Many online learning courses still use the traditional teacher-directed, textbook oriented curriculum that is compartmentalized by discipline. Many universities have begun to recognize that authentic situation learning must occur in online courses. A key aspect is to recognize that the unit itself must be an authentic activity and not just made up of disjointed activities. "The learning environment needs to provide ill-defined activities which have real-world relevance, and which present a single complex task to be completed over a sustained period of time, rather than a series of shorter disconnected examples."[10]

Utley presents Hung's argument that "learning embedded in rich situations assists adult learners to reflect on their actions, and discuss issues and problems with fellow members of a learning community." [11] While it may be possible for adult learners to gain knowledge and apply theories presented in other learning environments to what they experience in a real-world setting, situated learning offers an opportunity to work with others in considering how to best apply new concepts related to the specific context of their practice. While theoretical knowledge provides a foundation, the insights and skills developed through authentic practice can lead to more meaningful learning.[8] "Learning centers are also making an impact on career education…Most of the participants are minorities, and a large proportion are African-American and Hispanic women. They range in age from 13 to 91, half of them between 20 and 31 years of age, but with a large number of teenagers as well. Most come to learn job skills and take classes at the centers, as well as to use the Internet facilities.".[12] The increase in learning centers across the country is evidence of how the U.S., and the world really, has morphed into a society of continuing learners. Much of this learning is happening in centers described by Halverson and Collins. Examples of these learning centers, which are perfect examples of situated learning, include local libraries and job training centers. These learning centers are providing adults in particular with the kind of social interaction they need to extend their learning. This supports Hung's findings that people learn by simply being in certain situations with others.[4]

As organizations re-evaluate how they accomplish necessary workplace training with limited funds, they depend on informal learning that occurs within specific areas of practice to ensure that employees develop the skills they need to be effective. Reliance on structured, theoretical training programs, especially offered by third-party providers, is decreasing, and companies are finding ways to facilitate authentic learning opportunities within their communities of practice. Wagner notes that financial considerations have led to fewer managers, so organizations are looking to those who actually do the work for ideas about improving their products and services.[13]

"The issue of choosing between very abstract and very specific instruction can be viewed in the following way. If abstract training is given, learners must also absorb the money and time costs of obtaining supplemental training for each distinct application. But if very specific training is given, they must completely retrain for each application" [14]). When determining whether abstract or specific instruction are going to be more productive it is important to look at which method will be most useful to the individuals that are learning the skill. If students receive specific instruction they are going to be capable of performing those set tasks only. When students are taught abstract instruction they are exposed to more skills that will be useful in helping them obtain a variety of jobs but at the same time they may have training that is not necessarily needed. When money is "wasted" by educating individuals on things that are not needed for their future it is possible to look at the situation and realize that the monies could have been of more use in giving another individual more specific instruction.[15]

"In the world of academics and policy wonks, however, a growing number of alarmist studies have appeared over the last several years about how much more unprepared young Americans are for the demands of work today than was the case twenty years ago. Workers entering the labor force in the United States are less educated than young people in many other countries" [16] Our students are coming out of school unprepared and it seems that if they were in an educational setting where situated learning was implemented as much as possible, they would be better prepared for their futures. Based on Wagner's research we are less prepared than other countries as far as education goes, which is not necessarily something new, but it is definitely something that seems to far from changing. When our students are put into situations where they learn by doing they most likely will be more successful than if they were just told how something needed to be done.

Situated Learning and Social Media[edit]

“The act of writing in a Weblog, or “blogging” can go a long way toward teaching skills such as research, organizations and the synthesis of ideas.” [17] Teachers/Instructors have come to realize just how important it is to utilize the web as a teaching tool for the new generation of students (Digital Natives). One of the best tools is Weblog. It gives the students an opportunity to think, research, and realize that they can write and have a voice that can be viewed and read by many who may or my not share the same idea. When students blog they are creating journals/text entries which is considered to be English (writing) and Reading; they also have the opportunity to utilize other learning tools such as videos, photos and other digital media. "Networked learning, in contrast, is committed to a vision of the social that stresses cooperation, interactivity, mutual benefit, and social engagement. The power of ten working interactively will invariably outstrip the power of one looking to beat out the other nine." [18]

Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Ning allow learners, once they move beyond the personal connections, to embrace a community where they can learn from each other. Social interaction is an important part of the learning process.[4] As technology has grown and become an integral part of the lives of children, teens and young adults, older adults have been forced to adapt. For example, as more adults have been forced to move through the job market recently, they've turned to technology to develop new skills and to find work. Even fast-food restaurants require job seekers to complete employment applications online. “By the creation of visualizations, students learn to use different types of computer applications that will be useful as they select a direction for their future study.” [19] Students learn in different manners and visualization or situated learning seems to be the most used of all learning styles. Students are able to mimic what they see and hear which enables them to retain information for the long term. Through visualizations of different types of computer applications; the student’s knowledge is defined by the social process of interacting and doing. It allows the students to learn naturally as a result of social behavior. The computer application acts as a guide while the students learn naturally from their own experience. As always, situated learning accelerates a student learning process and ability.

Simulating the experiences that learners would have while performing the functions required in a job allows the opportunity to immediately apply what they've learned and benefit from an organization's existing knowledgebase. With recent advances in technology, it is possible to facilitate the social aspects of learning by virtually connecting individuals within a distributed community of practice in the online environment.[5] “Research shows that learners not only respond by feeding back information, but they also actively use what they know to explore, negotiate, interpret, and create. They construct solutions, thus shifting the emphasis toward the process of learning." [20] While these are skills that teachers are trying to develop in young learners, adults have already developed and used these skills. They have sharpened these skills through work, higher education, raising children or through marriage. As lifelong learners dealing with real-life problems, a project based approach is what develops when they come together with other adults at brick and mortar learning centers or in social networking communities on the web.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press
  2. ^ Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger (1991) Situated Learning. Legitimate peripheral participation, Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press p. 40
  3. ^ Chris Kimble and Paul Hildreth (2008). Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators. Information Age Publishing. ISBN 1-59311-863-5. 
  4. ^ a b c d Hung, D. (2002). Situated cognition and problem-based learning: implications for learning and instruction with technology. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 13(4), 393-415.
  5. ^ a b Halverson, A. C. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology. New York: Teachers College Press.
  6. ^ Halverson, A. C. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology. New York: Teachers College Press, p. 84.
  7. ^ Willis, J. & Cifuentes, L. (2005). Training teachers to integrate technology into the classroom curriculum: Online versus face-to-face course delivery (comparative analysis of teacher technology training courses). Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 3(1), p43-54.
  8. ^ a b c Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
  9. ^ Halverson, A. C. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology. New York: Teachers College Press, p. 74.
  10. ^ Herrington, Jan. "Towards a new tradition of online instruction: Using situated learning theory to design web-based units". web based units. 
  11. ^ Utley, B L. (2006). Effects of situated learning on knowledge gain of instructional strategies by students in a graduate level course. Teacher education and special education, 29(1), p.70.
  12. ^ Halverson, A. C. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology. New York: Teachers College Press, p. 80.
  13. ^ Wagner, T. (2010). The new world of work and the seven survival skills. In The global achievement gap: Why even our best schools don't teach the new survival skills our children need--and what we can do about it (pp. 1-42). New York: Basic Books.
  14. ^ Anderson, J.R., Reder, L.M., & Simon, H.A. (1996). Situated learning and education. Educational Researcher, 25(4), p. 8.
  15. ^ Anderson, J.R., Reder, L.M., & Simon, H.A. (1996). Situated learning and education. Educational Researcher, 25(4), 5-11.
  16. ^ Wagner, T. (2010). The new world of work and the seven survival skills. In The global achievement gap: Why even our best schools don't teach the new survival skills our children need--and what we can do about it (pp. 1-42). New York: Basic Books, p. 12.
  17. ^ Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, p. 27.
  18. ^ Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, p. 133.
  19. ^ Ernst, J. & Clark, A. (2009). Technology-based content through virtual and physical modeling: A national research Study. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education 1989-1997: 1997-2010. 20(2), 23–36.
  20. ^ Markham, T. (2003). Project based learning handbook: A guide to standards-focused project based learning for middle and high school teachers. Buck Institute for Education.

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