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 (Stein, 1998, para. 2) where learning occurs relative to the teaching environment. The following are examples of situated learning activities:
Situated learning essentially is a matter of creating meaning from the real activities of daily living.
These examples illustrate that students are actively involved in addressing real world problems. As the practice implies, 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.
Traditional learning occurs from abstract, out of context experiences such as lectures and books. Situated learning, on the other hand, suggests that learning takes place through the relationships between people and connecting prior knowledge with authentic, informal, and often unintended contextual learning. In this situation, a student’s role changes from being a beginner to an expert as they become more active and immersed in the social community where learning often is “unintentional rather than deliberate” (Oregon Technology in Education Council, 2007). Therefore, the social community matures and learns through collaboration and “sharing of purposeful, patterned activity” (Oregon Technology in Education Council, 2007, para. 14, citing Lave & Wenger).
Situated learning . . . suggests that learning takes place through the relationships between people and connecting prior knowledge with authentic, informal, and often unintended contextual learning.
Situated learning involves students in cooperative activities where they are challenged to use their critical thinking and kinesthetic abilities. These activities should be applicable and transferable to students’ homes, communities, and workplaces (Stein, 1998). While immersed in the experience, students reflect on previously held knowledge and by challenging the assumptions of other students.
Situated learning involves students in cooperative activities where they are challenged to use their critical thinking and kinesthetic abilities.
Stein (1998) recommends the following guidelines to develop situated learning classroom activities:
Stein (1998), citing Young further clarifies ways instructors can design “situated learning in the classroom:
Select situations that will engage the learners in complex, realistic, problem-centered activities...
Situated learning environments place students in authentic learning situations where they are actively immersed in an activity while using problem-solving (critical thinking) skills. These opportunities should involve a social community which replicates real world situations. In the end, the situated learning experience should encourage students to tap their prior knowledge and to challenge others in their community (Stein, 1998, para. 3).
Clancey, W. J. (1995). A tutorial on situated learning. http://methodenpool.uni-koeln.de/situierteslernen/clancey_situated_learning.PDF
Oregon Technology in Education Council (OTEC) (2007). Situated Learning (From: Theories and Transfer of Learning. http://otec.uoregon.edu/learning_theory.htm#SituatedLearning
Stein, D. (1998). Situated learning in adult education. http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-3/adult-education.html
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Northern Illinois University Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. (2012). Situated learning. In Instructional guide for university faculty and teaching assistants. Retrieved from https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/instructional-guide