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Situated Learning and Assessment. UCD College of Life Sciences Teaching and Learning Symposium 2010 18 Feb 2010 Dr. Anne Drummond UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science. Situated Learning.

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situated learning and assessment

Situated Learning and Assessment

UCD College of Life Sciences

Teaching and Learning Symposium 2010

18 Feb 2010

Dr. Anne Drummond

UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science

situated learning
Situated Learning
  • Learning in which the learning environment is ‘situated’ in a particular context
  • Apprenticeship (cognitive)
  • Adult learning

Learning should be always be regarded as situated in a local and social context, contrary to traditional theory of education where knowledge is considered free from any contextual influence

Knowledge and skills are learned in contexts that reflect how knowledge is obtained and applied in everyday situations

Creating meaning from the activities of daily living

situated learning theory
Situated Learning Theory
  • Emerged in late 1980s-1990s
    • Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989)
    • Lave and Wenger (1991)
  • Builds on other theories
    • Bandura’s social learning theory (modelling)
    • Vygotsky’s constructivism (scaffolding and fading)
    • Dewey, Knowles, Kolb
  • Has characteristics of
    • Principles of adult education (andragogy)
    • Problem-based learning
    • Experiential learning
situated learning apparently
Situated Learning apparently…
  • Emphasises higher order thinking rather than the acquisition of facts
  • Encourages reflection on learning
  • Focuses on application rather than retention
  • Places learners ‘in the experience’
  • Enhances employability of graduates
  • Learning occurs through dialogue with others in a community of practice
  • Communities of practice
  • Legitimate peripheral participation
    • Legitimate: member of the community of practice
    • Peripheral: learners start at the edge and can move inwards
    • Participation: learning through doing
situated learning applications
Core characteristic: active participation of students in a real-world or near-real world context for the purpose of learning


Mathematics, language, science

Social settings

Community committees, sports, leisure

Vocational and educational settings

Apprenticeship, mentoring, coaching

Master-apprentice relationships

Work and professional settings

New position

Professional bodies

Situated learning applications
jpf practitioner and student
JPF, Practitioner and Student

(Brown, Collins and Duguid, 1989, p. 35)

situated learning in the literature experience of different disciplines
Situated learning in the literature: Experience of different disciplines
  • Educational (higher education) literature on situated learning tends to
    • Be descriptive or discursive
    • Focus on professional education domains
  • Samples
    • Management education (instructional design project for corporate clients)
    • Medicine (PGME / CPD situated in the workplace)
    • Nursing (situated in practice placements)
    • Engineering (situating a communications course within the curriculum)
    • OSH (situating SH&E training within the workplace)
  • More recently:
    • instructional design; computers providing an alternative to the real-life setting; SL as a basis for web-based e-learning
instructional design in sl 9 critical characteristics
Instructional design in SL:9 critical characteristics
  • “Provide authentic context that reflects the way the knowledge will be used in real-life;
  • Provide authentic activities;
  • Provide access to expert performances and the modelling of processes;
  • Provide multiple roles and perspectives;
  • Support collaborative construction of knowledge;
  • Provide coaching and scaffolding at critical times;
  • Promote reflection to enable abstractions to be formed;
  • Promote articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be made explicit;
  • Provide for integrated assessment of learning within the tasks.”

(Herrington and Oliver, 2000)

our experience of situated learning in osh
Our experience of Situated Learning in OSH


  • Adult professional CPE programmes
  • Actual work situation V placement or internship
    • No work-based instruction
    • No work-based supervision or mentoring
    • Recognising experiential learning (+ need to capture)
  • Modularisation provided opportunity to review Cert, HDip and BSc programmes
  • Decided to gain/assess evidence of ‘experiential’ learning through assessment
  • Realised that situated learning was taking place
examples of work based assessments in osh
Examples of work-based assessments in OSH
  • Level 1: Report for manager (versus an essay)

OR Article for Chamber of Commerce newsletter

  • Level 1: Basic risk assessment of own workplace
  • Level 3: Risk assessments / management reports in a variety of domains and contexts provide a scaffold and ultimately lead students, with reducing support, to their:
    • Level 3: Safety Statement project
  • Level 2: Professional portfolios
  • Level 3: Ergonomic assessment
  • Level 3: SWOT analyses
  • Level 3: Proposing a model for practice
student feedback on work based assessment level 1
Student feedback on work-based assessment Level 1

In terms of helpfulness to learning, please indicate the extent to which you found the following components helpful or unhelpful: Preparing assignments

student feedback on work based assessment level 3
Student feedback on work-based assessment Level 3

‘The continuous assessment helped me to apply learning in the context of the workplace’

feedback on work based assessment bsc graduate evaluation 2002 2009
Feedback on work-based assessmentBSc Graduate Evaluation (2002-2009)

Helpfulness to Learning: work-based assignments associated with modules

Helpfulness to Learning: work-based research project

61% of employers encouraged graduates to apply learning at work, while doing BSc;

36% of employers were neutral, but did not discourage.

student feedback on work based assessment
Student feedback on work-based assessment

Assignments - putting learning into work setting

What was good about this module?

The use of real life experiences (workplaces) was a plus

Practical Assignments

Continuous assessment is strongest teaching feature of module

I found the assignments very helpful, I learnt a lot

pros of the osh experience

Promotes deep learning

Social and professional acceptance

Perceived value to learners

In practice

Increased student engagement

Reduction in ‘regurgitated’ content

Positive student evaluations

Designs out plagiarism

PROs … of the OSH experience
and cons of the osh experience

[Such] socialisation may not embody best practice

Hard to implement in the classroom

May not always be a ‘master’ involved

Debate over transferability

In practice

More work for graders (but probably more interesting)

Difficult to attribute, i.e. to separate impact of situated learning from effects of modularisation or introduction of continuous assessment

…and CONs of the OSH experience
  • Situated Learning ….
    • IS NOT … an educational form, pedagogical strategy or teaching technique
    • IS …a way of understanding learning
    • Should not be ignored by educationalists
  • Provides an opportunity to pay attention to different learning climates
  • In some domains it is important to recognise the social and professional acceptance in communities of practice as part of the learning experience
  • Important to look at LEARNING (not teaching) as the contextualised or situated experience
  • Anderson, J.R., Reder, L.M. and Simon, H.A. (1996). Situated Learning and Education. Educational Researcher. 25 (4) pp. 5 – 11.
  • Boud, D. and Falchikov, N. (2006). Aligning assessment with long-term learning. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 31 (4) pp. 399-413.
  • Brown, J.S., Collins, A. and Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher. 18 (1) pp. 32 – 42.
  • Choi. J. and Hannafin, M. (1995). Situated cognition and learning environments: roles, structures, and implications for design. Journal of Educational Technology Research and Development. 43 (2) pp. 53 – 69.
  • Herrington, J. and Herrington, A. (1998). Authentic assessment and multimedia: how university students respond to a model of authentic assessment. Higher Education Research and Development. 17 (3) pp. 305 – 322.
  • Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning; legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
  • Merriam, S.B. and Caffarella, R.S. (1999). (2nd Ed). Learning in Adulthood: a comprehensive guide. Jossey-Bass Publishers: San Francisco.
  • Romer, T.A. (2002). Situated learning and assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education. 27 (3) pp 233 – 241.
  • Stein, D. (1998). Situated learning in adult education. ERIC Digest no. 195.
  • Computer Science:Ben-Ari, M. (2004). Situated learning in computer science education. Computer Science Education. 14 (2) pp 85 – 100.
  • Engineering:Artemeva, N., Logie, S. and St-Martin, J. (1999). From Page to Stage: How theories of genre and situated learning help introduce engineering students to discipline-specific communication. Technical Communication Quarterly.8 (3) pp. 301 – 316.
  • Medicine:Swanick, T. (2005). Informal learning in postgraduate medical education: from cognitivism to ‘culturism’. Medical Education. 39 (8) pp. 859 - 865.
  • Nursing: Cope, P., Cuthbertson, P. and Stoddart, B. (2000). Situated learning in the practice placement. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 31 (4) pp. 850 – 856.
  • OSH: Machles, D. (2003). Situated learning; new approach to SH&E training focuses on learning. Professional Safety. Sep 2003. pp. 22 – 28.
  • Physiotherapy:Richardson, B. (1999). Professional Development: 2. Professional knowledge and situated learning in the workplace. Physiotherapy. 85 (9) pp 467 – 474.
  • Teaching:Korthagen, F. (2010). Situated learning theory and the pedagogy of teacher education: Towards an integrative view of teacher behavior and teacher learning. Teaching and Teacher Education. 26 (1) pp. 98–106.
  • Designing web-based E-learning:Hung, D. and Chen, D.T. (2001). Situated cognition, Vygotskian thought and learning from the communities of practice perspective: Implications for the design of Web-based E-learning. Educational Media International. 38 (1) pp 3 – 12.
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