Learning in Context: Situated Learning Theory

What is situated learning? What a great question.
Situated learning is an instructional approach developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in the early 1990s, and follows the work of Dewey, Vygotsky, and others (Clancey, 1995) who claim that students are more inclined to learn by actively participating in the learning experience. Situated learning essentially is a matter of creating meaning from the real activities of daily living. Whaaaaat?
So basically it is learning in context, during everyday life, learning by doing, while doing.
Examples of situated learning:
  •  Field trips where students actively participate in an unfamiliar environment
  • Cooperative education and internship experiences in which students are immersed and physically active in an actual work environment
  • Music and sports (physical education) practice which replicate actual setting of these events, e.g., orchestras, studios, training facilities
  • Laboratories and child-care centers used as classrooms in which students are involved in activities which replicate actual work settings
Typically classroom learning is in contrast with situated learning. We teach our students concepts and expect them to later apply them to real world situations.
The student is “situated” in the learning experience and knowledge acquisition becomes a part of the learning activity, its context, and the “culture in which it is developed and used” (Oregon Technology in Education Council, 2007). Students form or “construct” their own knowledge from experiences they bring to the learning situation; the success of situated learning experiences relies on social interaction and kinesthetic activity.
Situated learning environments place students in authentic learning situations where they are actively immersed in an activity while using problem-solving (critical thinking) skills. You can use cooperative learning and problem based learning to support situated learning.
Alexander, P. (2006). Handbook of educational psychology (2nd ed.). Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.
Situated Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved October 17, 2015, from http://www.facdev.niu.edu/facdev/resources/guide/strategies/situated_learning.pdf
Stein, D. (n.d.). Situated Learning in Adult Education. ERIC Digest. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-3/adult-education.html

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