Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cognitive Apprenticeship / Situated Learning in Life and Work Settings

Jenni's new approach for processing water from oil and gas wells was announced on the very same day that the Oklahoma Geological Survey stated that injecting produced water was causing the dramatic increase in damaging earthquakes in Oklahoma. So, her new approach was viewed as a potential solution to the problems. 

Because Jenni's approach was so practical, a large number of people were instantly interested, but they needed more information, knowledge, and understanding. As they educated themselves in the role of injected produced water, induced seismicity, and alternative processing approaches, they found they were very motivated - the hours flew by, and they retained what they were learning.

What was going on was a good example of situated learning, which focuses on making sure that the theoretical concepts are grounded in an authentic learning setting. Developed by Jean Lavé, the concept of situated learning is different from more formal learning approaches because it is unintentional, often unstructured, and focused toward the accomplishment of a concrete goal or objective.

Often referred to as cognitive apprenticeship, situated learning requires learners to use other learners and resources on an as-needed basis. As Lave and Wenger found in their seminal studies, the scope, depth, and breadth of knowledge are often very surprising.

If you are developing a learning program and you'd like to incorporate the power and flexibility (as well as the energy) of situated learning, it is important to put what is being learned within a specific context. It is also important to make sure that all the content and activities relate to learning objectives in a way that allows the learner to keep them in mind as they scramble around to obtain the knowledge and information they need.

Situated learning is a powerful strategy for several reasons. Here are a few

•    It is anchored in prior knowledge and real-world experience, and flows from the activities, context, and culture in which it is found.

•    A powerful example involves the application of new knowledge or techniques to case studies.

•    Situated learning contains true problem-solving power because it includes intrinsic motivation, and the learners are open to peripheral interesting and unexpected inflows / inputs as they try to achieve their learning objectives.

•    It is authentic and flexible, allows one to prioritize the instructional materials by what is needed most

•    Social learning takes place in a natural, fluid way as individuals naturally collaborate and share information / knowledge because they truly care about the outcome.

Some of the best learning takes place outside the classroom, and yet the strategies that make problem-based learning can be implemented in the classroom and online with great success. Situated learning is just one of them.

Susan Smith Nash, Ph.D.

Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in Practice: Mind, mathematics, and culture in everyday life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1990). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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