Week4 – A2 – Brown et al

Situated Cognition and the culture of learning

The authors explain why activity and situations are integral to cognition and learning and how different ideas of what is appropriate learning activity produce very different results.

Situated Knowledge and Learning: Learning from the situation rather than an out of context environment (which can easily be provided in a class). Learning is developed through continued, situated use.

Learning and tools: Learning and acting are interestingly indistinct, learning being a continuous, life-long process resulting from acting in situations.  Students are too often asked to use the tools of a discipline without being able to adopt its culture.

Learning and enculturation: Altough cultural practices are extremely complex, through observation and practising in situ the behaviour of other members of a culture, people tend to learn to act in accordance with the culture’s norm.  Acquisition of particular dialects  can be seen as enculturation ?

Authentic Activity: defined as the ordinary practices of the culture. School activity is regarded as inauthentic as what students do is different what authentic practitioners do.

 Activities of students, practitioners and just plain folks: JPFs (just plain folk) tend to def ine and solve in “real time” the problem they are faced with. Likewise, the student when faced with a problem tends to invent strategies to solve it. eg in math positioning of problems will mean that its easy (beginning) or difficult (end).

Structuring activity: Indexical representations maturing through a problem solving activity will increase the ability to solve future tasks. This can be done if part of the surrounding environment remains intact.   “Learning methods that are embedded in authentic situations are not merely useful; they are essential.

 Learning Through Cognitive Apprenticeship: Cognitive apprenticeship methods try to enculturate students into authentic practices through activity and social interaction.

They suggest students work in teams on projects or problems with close scaffolding of the instructor. http://www.edtech.vt.edu/edtech/id/models/cog.html

fig 3

Cognitive apprenticeship and collaborative learning: 

Group learning features:

  • Collective problem solving
  • Displaying multiple roles
  • Confronting ineffectivee strategies and misconceptions.
  • Providing collaborative work skills.

teacher as a master to apprentices.

Situated cognition describes a perspective of human cognition that asserts learning happens as human beings interact with the living world. Also referred to as the “situativity theory of cognition” (Greeno, 1998)

We suggest below a number of additional areas that you might like to pick out as you read the paper:

  1. As this paper was written around 20 years ago how has its central message held up? What lasting value does this paper have today?
  2. If you had to summarise the authors’ arguments in a short paragraph what would you write?

Learning through a situation rather than an out of context environment which can easily be provided in a classroom. Thus the authors mention in their argument that the student tends to find ways how to ‘cope’ with the school culture.

  1. In the late capitalism of the twenty-first century is apprenticeship still a relevant model for learning? Try and think in terms of the kinds of knowledge required for the work that is common in a modern economy.

Apprenticeship still holds in any workplace. The worker is gaining experience from his work collegues and work environment (learning from the situation). This will lead to an aquisition of skills which are needed to cope at work.


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