Integrating Situated Learning in Classrooms: A Synopsis

Integrating Situated Learning in Classrooms: A Synopsis

How do you explain a topic to your students?

You enter the classroom, grab a textbook and start delivering a lecture. While you are in the midst of a lengthy lecture session, you turn to the blackboard to scribble a few facts before proceeding with the rest of the lecture. During this lecture, you introduce an idea, illustrate it with examples or stories, and continue with your ‘academic speech’.


Are you really convinced that the traditional ‘lecture’ technique is productive in terms of inspiring your pupils to absorb and retain the information they imbibe?

How many of you are confident about the efficacy of lectures as a competent teaching tool in the 21st century?

Well, since quite some time, large number of educators have been pondering over the significance of traditional teaching strategies inside a classroom. Perhaps it was this looming uncertainty about ‘classroom lecturing’ that prompted two researchers to develop a brand new academic theory that would challenge conventional teaching policies.

That’s how Situated Learning came into existence.

Evolution of Situated Learning Theory

The year was 1991.

Etienne Wenger and Jean Lave, two noted scholars devised a new theory. According to this theory, an ideal learning environment should emphasize on the principle of ‘active learning’, rather than merely listening to lectures in an academic setting. Known as the ‘situated learning theory’, this was largely inspired by the works of Lev Vygotsky and John Dewey. While John Dewey was an American educational reformer, Lev Vygotsky was a famous Soviet psychologist.

Situated Learning – A Deeper Insight

When learning processes incorporate a habit of connecting pre-existing knowledge with new kinds of circumstances against a comfortable backdrop, students start enjoying the concept of situated learning.

As the name suggests, situated learning enables students to grasp knowledge from practical, daily activities of life. This sort of a learning technique is based on the fact that students learn more swiftly through social relationships that seek to explore innovative alternatives.

This is simply because great educators do not view education as an ordinary procedure of dissemination of knowledge, but an interactive process. Lave and Wenger felt that this type of a learning tool employs particular contexts and takes place within practical environments.

In short, students should be able to relate to their surroundings and their academic activities with their lessons. Only then the learning would be effective and complete. And that is the central concept of situated learning.

How Situated Learning Complements Peripheral Participation

You must have observed how most of the academic lessons deal with conceptual ideas. Consequently, students can hardly identify the connection between the real world and the educational ideas they have been learning.

Do you know why such a thing happens?

Let me decode it.

It is due to the fact that ‘social interaction’ is completely missing from a traditional classroom session.

Imagine a typical classroom. What would you expect? You would bump into pupils who are either glued to their textbooks, attempting to find solutions to the questions asked by the teacher – or, gazing at the blackboard trying to make sense of a definition scribbled on it.

Social interactions make students a part of ‘community practice’ that motivates them to achieve certain beliefs and value systems.

As students come into contact with situated learning, they gradually start transiting from the periphery of the community towards its central point. Now it is precisely at this particular point that students become intrinsically involved with academic cultures and soon go on to emerge as an expert on the subject they might be studying about.

Therefore, you might term the idea of situated learning as something involuntary, rather than being ‘intentional’.

Characteristics of Situated Learning: Let us take a glance at some of the characteristics of situated learning. An awareness about these principles would aid you in determining if this sort of a learning technique is the need of the hour in your class.

  1. Knowledge is Dependent on Social Interactions

First of all, you should understand the basic theme of situated learning. It states that knowledge does not resemble an inanimate object, but is a by-product of ‘social construction’.

To put it straight, students accumulate knowledge by communicating with their peers, teachers, acquaintances – alongside their textbooks. Situated learning ensures that students are exposed to a 365-degree knowledge structure when they join an educational institute.

  1. Knowledge is Based on People’s Reactions

Since knowledge is an outcome of social interactions, it is also dependent on the reaction of people with respect to certain circumstances. When people participate in any activity and accomplish their goals using their problem-solving skills, they create new experiences.

If students closely observe their surroundings, they would be able to notice how people deal with certain issues and come to their solutions. Thus, that would make it possible for students to learn how to overcome a crisis situation in any field.

  1. Content is Diversified

Another key characteristic of situated learning is that it believes in diversifying academic content. Educators should strive to create compelling content that can be represented in multiple ways.

Wondering why?

Well, it’s simply because every student in a classroom possesses varied understanding levels and analytical powers. As teachers, you should make every effort to present the content in as many ways as possible. This will ensure that your students can differentiate between various types of ways to impart education and identify the best learning processes.

  1. Knowledge Transforms Individuals

If you adhere to the principles of situated learning, you would realize that knowledge merely does not imply feeding your brain with a continuous stream of information. Instead, it plays an extremely crucial role to transform individuals.

In other words, situated learning models generally follow an approach that helps learners progress towards evolving into more responsible members of the society, thereby contributing to healthier relationships.

If you aim to make learning processes more convenient and student-friendly, you should immediately consider applying the theory of situated learning in your classroom. Trust me, students would be more receptive to specialized learning strategies instead of the age-old teaching practices that you have followed till the present day. Not only would it enhance the critical thinking skills of your pupils, but it would also make them smarter individuals capable of realizing their dreams!


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