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What Is Situated Learning?

What Do We Mean by Situated Learning?

In a few words, situated learning is learning which happens in the same context where it is put into action. Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger were the first to propose this learning technique as a model of learning within groups who have a common profession or craft, for example, a community of practice. The main principle of the theory is that when the classroom setting is provided to give abstract knowledge, the knowledge tends to be harder to retain. However, learning which occurs when the learners are able to apply it directly to cultures, contexts and real activities, in other words, the learning is contextual is retained more easily. Take the example of a comparison between an electrical mechanic and an engineering student, the electrical mechanic may have a superior knowledge of electrical circuits than the engineering student who has a more theoretical knowledge, but less practical understanding. The reason for this lies in the fact that the former engages in a learning process where he directly sees the path to success as well as the outcome of making a mistake.

Four Methods of Applying the Situated Learning Theory

Within the situated learning environment, the learner is in a situation where they are engaged fully in the activity while at the same time using critical thinking to solve issues which arise. The situation should mimic a real life situation and be part of a social setting. Ultimately, the learner should start to make use of the knowledge they already have and challenge others within the social situation. Incorporating this theory, GBS Corporate Training provides training solutions in several ways as noted below:

Learning That Is Scenario Based

Action and learning are not strangers, rather they exist in social environments involving actors, actions and a complex set up. For this reason, facilitators focus on creating scenarios where new learners can gain the appropriate level of guidance to master the circumstances they are presented with. Assessment of the intellectual growth of the group, as well as each individual, is carried out through reflection, discussion and evaluation.

Role Play

Learning is achieved via everyday actions in a situation where learners each have a role to play – for example, a HR executive, a sales rep, a marketing expert or other appropriate roles. The knowledge is gained in context, to be used in another similar situation. The importance is on creating role playing opportunities that provide an engaging, complex and real life activity where problem-solving is essential and a desire to seek knowledge is evident. To do this successfully the role must change from trainer to facilitator. Remember to keep a track on progress made, create collaborative learning situations, promote reflection and seek contextual hints to lend a helping hand in both understandings and transferring what has been understood.

A Group Activity

Practical experiences where the learners are immersed in a real work environment, field trips where learners actively engage in a situation which is unfamiliar, accommodative education and real life setting of the events, for example, training facilities, studios, orchestras, child care centres and labs. Here, the learners are involved in situations which mimic the real work setting and get to experience situations where the need to seek a solution exists. Just as the name of the theory states, the learners are ‘situated’ within the actual learning process and the learning which takes place is in the context of where it is to be applied.

The Use of Technology

Knowledge and information which learners struggle to retain when learned out of context are understood and retained more easily when games, social media, blogs and microblogs are used. Facebook, Twitter and other such social networks allow learners to engage with a community where learning is mutual. The learning process is greatly improved when social interactions play a role. Such contextual learning certainly has the benefit of allowing the learner to gain a better understanding of concepts. However, it also gives the opportunity to see how their peers apply such knowledge.

Many years ago, Eduard Lindeman made the argument that learning is a part of everyday life. It is important for educators to contemplate what they view as knowledge and practice, in an aid to understanding how learning from experience and problem solving should be at the very centre. Possibly, the most crucial element to remember is that education is about committed and informed action. The above ideas are exciting to explore and can, to an extent, lead informal educators down a different path altogether from the pressured route of formalisation and gaining credit.