Situated Learning Guide

An Introduction to Situated Learning Theory

Simply put, situated learning is learning that occurs in the same context where it is applied. Etienne Wenger and Jean Lave first proposed this learning model to be used in a group of individuals who share a profession and/or craft, for example, a community of practice. The theory’s basic tenet is that usually abstract knowledge that is provided inside the classroom is more difficult to retain. The only time that real learning occurs is when it is contextual – which means that whenever students are able to apply it directly in authentic cultures, context and activities. For instance, a practising manager of a business will have a much deeper knowledge of different aspects of running a business compared to a business management student who mainly has theoretical knowledge and a small amount of practical understanding of the way that businesses are run. That is because the former learner reaps the benefits directly (whenever he achieves success) as well as outcomes (whenever he makes a mistake) of the learning process overall. This is the aim of situational management courses – to teach through experience.

4 Ways the Situated Learning Theory Can Be Applied

Situated learning environment puts students into learning situations where problem-solving skills (critical thinking) are used while actively immersed in a certain activity. A social community should be involved in these opportunities that mirror real world situations. The situated learning experience, in the end, should encourage students to draw on their prior knowledge as well as challenge other community members. The following are some of the main ways that this theory can be applied:

Group Activities

Child-care centres, laboratories, training facilities and studios used as a classroom where students get to work in settings that mirror actual work settings means they experience scenarios where they are actively involved in seeking out solutions to real world problems. Sports practice and music which mirror real settings of those events such as orchestras, practical and accommodative educative experiences where students are physically involved and engrossed in a real life world environment and field trips where students participate actively in unfamiliar environments all encourage students to utilise prior knowledge but also help gain new knowledge.

As suggested by the theory the student gets “situated” within the learning process where knowledge is acquired as part of the overall learning activity, the culture in which it is used and developed and its context.

Role Playing

Learning occurs through the actions that are part of everyday situations in which employees play certain roles – HR executive, the operations managers, marketing experts, sales representative, and so forth. Knowledge is acquired in context and transferred in similar situations only. It is very important to put them into role-playing situations that engage learners in problem-centred, realistic and complex activities and offer support in obtaining the desired knowledge. In order to do this, you must recast their role to facilitator from a teacher. It is very important to encourage reflection, create collaborative learning environments, assess products that learners produce, track progress and help the students to be more aware of contextual clues that help with transference and understanding.

Scenario Based Learning

Learning isn’t separate from the action but instead exists in complex, robust social environments that are made of up situations, actions and actors. That is why facilitators need to work on providing new learners with scenarios and know the intensity and type of guidance that is needed to help learners master those types of situations. Less support is needed as learners continue to acquire additional skills. However, it is necessary to assess an individual’s intellectual growth as well as the group of learners that the person is part of through evaluation, reflection and discussion as needed.

Using Technology

Facts and information that are difficult to retain whenever they are drilled out of a context that is meaningful and learned much more easily whenever they are acquired by learners through social media like microblogs or blogs or from a game. Social networks such as Ning, Twitter and Facebook allow learners after they have moved past personal connections, to become involved in a community where they have the chance to learn from one another. Social interactions have a significant impact on the learning process. Not only does the contextual understanding that is acquired allow the learner to understand concepts better but helps them with learning, from peers, how they can be applied as well.

Many years ago Eduard Lindeman argued that learning is part of our daily living. Learning from experience and problem-solving are central processes. That is why it is necessary for educators to reflect on what constitutes practice and knowledge. Maybe one of the most important things to understand is the extent to which committed and informed action is involved in education. The above are intriguing ideas to explore and, to a very significant extent, can take informal teachers into a completely different direction than the prevailing pressures towards formalisation and accreditation.