Jean Lave

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Jean Lave
Born1939 (age 83–84)
Known forCommunities of practice
Legitimate peripheral participation
Situated learning
Academic background
Alma materStanford University (B.A.)
Harvard University (PhD, 1968)
Academic work
DisciplineSocial anthropology
InstitutionsUniversity of California, Irvine
University of California, Berkeley

Jean Lave is a social anthropologist who theorizes learning as changing participation in on-going changing practice. Her lifework challenges conventional theories of learning and education.

Education and career[edit]

Lave received a Bachelor's from Stanford University,[1] and completed her doctorate in social anthropology at Harvard University in 1968. She taught at the University of California, Irvine and is currently a professor emerita of geography at the University of California, Berkeley.[2]

In 1988, Lave published her first book, Cognition in Practice: Mind, Mathematics and Culture in Everyday Life. In it, she explores how arithmetic is used outside of school contexts, with implications for sociological understanding of the relationship between cognition, practice, culture, and society.[3] For instance, she shows that grocery shoppers in Orange County, California who could successfully do the mathematics needed for comparison shopping were less able to do the same mathematics when they were presented with the same problems in a formal test.[4] The work is considered a critique of learning transfer theory and challenges the drawing of sharp boundaries between theories of rationality and theories of everyday thought.[3]

In 1991, Lave pioneered the theories of situated learning and communities of practice with the publication of her seminal text, Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (in collaboration with her student Étienne Wenger). The theory of situated learning posits that, in the words of anthropologist Nigel Rapport, learning is a "social process" and that individuals "learn best, it is suggested, in a situation in which participants share a common identity and goals... in the middle of our lives, while doing other everyday things, alongside people with whom we identify."[1] Furthermore, Lave's studies of apprenticeship in this and subsequent works are recognized as a significant critique of educational psychology. As of March 2022, Situated Learning has been cited over 89,000 times.[5]

Honors and awards[edit]

In 1989, Lave was named a Spencer Senior Scholar of the Spencer Foundation.[6] In 1994, Lave received the Sylvia Scribner Research Award from the American Educational Research Association.[1] In 2013, Lave was jointly awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society for Psychological Anthropology with Anthony F. C. Wallace.[7]

She holds honorary degrees from both Aarhus University, awarded in 2008,[8] and the University of St Andrews, awarded in 2015.[1]

Selected publications[edit]

Lave's published books include:

  • Learning and Everyday Life: Access, Participation, and Changing Practice (2019)
  • Apprenticeship in Critical Ethnographic Practice (2011)
  • History in Person: Enduring Struggles, Contentious Practice, Intimate Identities (edited with Dorothy Holland, 2000)
  • Understanding Practice (co-authored with Seth Chaiklin, 1993)
  • Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (co-authored with Etienne Wenger, 1991)
  • Cognition in Practice (1988)

Wikibooks includes an introduction to Lave's ideas.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Rapport, Nigel (26 June 2015). "Laureation address: Professor Jean Lave | University of St Andrews news". University of St. Andrews News. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  2. ^ "Jean Lave". Berkeley School of Information. Archived from the original on 16 September 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  3. ^ a b Strauss, Claudia (January 1990). "Reviewed Work: Cognition in Practice: Mind, Mathematics and Culture in Everyday Life. by Jean Lave". Contemporary Sociology. 19 (1): 150–151. doi:10.2307/2073537. JSTOR 2073537. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  4. ^ Cognition in Practice: Mind, Mathematics and Culture in Everyday Life (Learning in Doing)" by Jean Lave, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (1988) ISBN 0-521-35734-9.
  5. ^ "Jean Lave". Google Scholar. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  6. ^ "The Spencer Foundation 1996 Annual Report" (PDF). The Spencer Foundation. 1989. p. 110. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  7. ^ "SPA Lifetime Achievement Award". Society for Psychological Anthropology. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  8. ^ "Honorary Doctors Appointed by Aarhus University". Retrieved 8 March 2022.