When I jumped online to post today, I saw Janette’s question: What is Situated Learning? And I thought to myself, “I’ve read most of this book before (nearly 2 years ago), why can’t I spit out a specific definition?” So I jumped on Wikipedia (<3) and found this quote:
“Situated learning was first proposed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger as a model of learning in a community of practice. At its simplest, situated learning is learning that takes place in the same context in which it is applied. Lave and Wenger (1991) argue that learning should not be viewed as simply the transmission of abstract and decontextualised knowledge from one individual to another, but a social process whereby knowledge is co-constructed; they suggest that such learning is situated in a specific context and embedded within a particular social and physical environment.”
So before I get blogging, I wanted to remind myself that this is the concept we are talking/thinking about, since it is not specifically defined in the first two chapters.
Some of the important concepts that Wenger strives to explain/define are apprenticeship, learning and knowledge, and participation.
In Chapter 1, Wenger outlines his realization that the role of apprenticeship in learning needs to be reexamined. He writes, “the uses of “apprenticeship” in cognitive and educational research were largely metaphorical, even though apprenticeship as an actual educational form clearly had a long and varied train of historically and culturally specific realizations” (31). This reexamining of the importance of apprenticeship seems particularly important to what we are thinking about in this class because it is a practice that we are using as interns in the 30 space. We are learning ways of teaching composition to small groups of students by taking on the role of an “apprentice” (or an “intern”) under a “master” (or a “mentor”) and participating as near peers side by side with younger students in an active learning environment.
In Chapter 2, Wenger outlines his theory that “increasing participation in communities of practice concerns the whole person acting in the world. Conceiving of learning in terms of participation focuses attention on ways in which it is an evolving, continuously renewed set of relations” (49). He goes on to say that “learning involves the construction of identities” (52). He describes the learner as a constantly evolving personality/mind who learns through social interaction. This is very different from the way that learning in school has been set up in my experience as a student. The teacher stood in front and knew all the right answers and the students sat in rows, ready to somehow absorb the teacher’s understanding of a concept by listening to a lecture. Group projects were a rare treat and working together on homework was considered “cheating.”
Participation, as outlined in both chapters, is critical to Wenger’s theory on learning. He explains that, “as an aspect of social practice, learning involves the whole person; it implies not only a relation to specific activities, but a relation to social communities — it implies becoming a full participation, a kind of person” (53). According to Wenger, learning implies a link to a social group because learning occurs when the learner participates in what is referred to as a community of practice. Wenger also states that “legitimate peripheral participation refers both to the development of knowledgeably skilled identities in practice and to the reproduction and transformation of communities of practice” (55). This seems to suggest that the more fully the learner participates in the community, the more the community is shaped by the learner.
My question now becomes, what are some ways that we create a space where learning is encouraged through participation? Every time I walk into my 30 workshop, I find my students scattered to the far corners of the room. They have a clear expectation of what a classroom setting should look like and I am determined to break that expectation. My students cannot participate in the space when they aren’t even sitting near each other. So how can I foster a sense of community between eleven students who don’t know each other and (at this exact second) don’t care to know each other?
Also, what can participation look like? When I was in high school, participation meant raising my hand to answer my teacher’s question. But that can’t be the only way a student can participate? What are some ways that I can encourage my students to step out of their “student” roles?
When I say “participation,” I mean both the students’ participation in the space and my participation in the space. How can I demonstrate participation in ways that breaks the expectation of a traditional student-teacher relationship? How can I portray myself as both a mentor (a more experienced near peer) and a willing student, ready to be taught something by each of my freshmen?
So many questions…sorry haha