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practices. The importance of social context figures prominently in the idea of situated
cognition which was first introduced in Chapter 5.
Situated cognition exists in different forms and is described by different terms
such as situated learning, cognitive apprenticeships, and legitimate peripheral
participation (Hendricks, 2001). Its relevant definitions, benefits, and issues continue to
be debated (Anderson, Reder, & Simon, 1997; Cobb & Bowers, 1999; Greeno, 1997).
However, there are some frequently mentioned elements of situated cognition that should
be reviewed before discussing transfer of learning from this perspective.
First, researchers who work from a situated cognition perspective suggest that it is
useful to think of knowledge as being analogous to the tools people use to solve problems
and make things (Brown, Collins and Duguid, 1989). Knowledge and tools have three
characteristics in common: • Both tools and knowledge can only be completely understood when they are
used in meaningful way, 46 • Using a particular tool or bit of knowledge changes the way a person
understands a problem or situation and • the specific uses for tools or knowledge are embedded within cultural
The implication is that knowledge cannot be separated from the context in which that
knowledge is acquired and applied. From a situated cognition perspective, formal
schooling can be criticized for failing to recognize this by trying to teach knowledge
outside of its context (Lave, 1990). From a situated cognition perspective, teaching
knowledge out of context leads to incomplete and under-developed understanding of that
knowledge (Choi & Hannafin, 1997).
In a situated cognition approach learning occurs through enculturation
(Hendricks, 2001). Enculturation is the process of acquiring knowledge of participation
structures for a social context through prolonged activity within that context. For
example, you will learn the structure of participation for a given classroom setting when
you student teach in that setting. Such enculturation is most likely to occur when learners
act as apprentices to more skilled learners as they collaborate on authentic or real-world
tasks (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989; Griffin, 1995; Hendricks, 2001). To achieve this
goal, Campione, Shapiro, and Brown (1995), suggest that classroom should be designed
so that: • Students are encouraged to engage in metacognition by making them aware of
the potential to use what they learn in a wide variety of situations. • The social context of learning is emphasized by encouraging discourse with
teachers, outside experts and among the learners themselves. 47 • Learners explain what they are learning to others.
• Topics and materials provide opportunities for extended analysis and
instruction occurs in authentic contexts.
Situated cognition and transfer. Somewhat distinct perspectives on transfer can
be associated with situated cognition (DeCorte, 1999). One possible perspective that is
attributed to situated cognition is that skills cannot transfer because they cannot be
separated from their context of use. Th...
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- Spring '08