Posted by: soniahs | October 31, 2010

Exam reading: Situated learning

Jean Lave & Etienne Wenger’s Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation is a foundational text for several key concepts.

Summary: Their main thesis is that learning occurs as “legitimate peripheral participation” in communities of practice: it’s not only situated/place-based (negotiated meanings, relational character of knowledge), but an integral part of the social fabric. Knowledge is comprehensive & activity-based (vs. received), and there’s a mutually constitutive relationship between actors, activities, and the world. The traditional approach of learning as internalization is too cerebral; they see learning as a process of increasing participation in the comm. of practice. Their focus is on the “person-in-world,” rather than the solitary learner or abstract knowledge domains. They also take a historical approach; e.g., comms. are constantly renewing themselves through the admission of newcomers and centripetal movement of newcomers into full participation. They discuss several aspects of traditional apprenticeships as case studies: technology use, recruitment, power relations, and organization of activity. The learning process is a set of steps of conferring legitimacy on the newcomer; learning starts as observation of community, who to emulate, etc., while doing peripheral tasks like running errands (core tasks come later.)

Comments: Authors suggest that more research is needed on defining “communities of practice” and power relations within communities. They summarize with a few ways their approach differs from traditional approaches: person becomes practitioner, situated learning becomes LPP in comm. of practice, knowing is inherent in identity transformation, and the social world is always reproducing itself while changing (there’s a conflict between continuity and shifting membership- “displacement contradiction”). They also discuss technology use: tech has both “invisible” (unproblematic/easily integrated use) and “visible” (salience/utility for task) components- these together create the degree of technological “transparency” (tech. that are both easy to use and the user can understand the significance of tech. within the community are transparent.) Their ideas tie into the idea of discourse community (and they do discuss language), but they’re more interested in language as a way to talk about the community than as a vehicle for information transmission.

Links to: foundational text for a lot of stuff…



  1. […] to: Lave & Wenger (community/participatory […]

  2. […] to: Lave & Wenger (comm. of practice); Roth & McGinn (also focus on science learning via representations); […]

  3. […] to: Rapp & Kurby (perceptual vs. amodal models of cognition); Lave & Wenger (social cognition); Zhang & Norman (internal-external […]

  4. […] to: Lave & Wenger (not as social as L&W, but some social stuff here); Zhang & Norman (discuss process of […]

  5. […] to: Howe (discusses crowdsourcing-ultimate result of this educational style? or at least linked); Lave & Wenger […]

  6. […] to: Lave & Wenger (participants can be seen as LPPers); Liu (core list-politics of knowledge economy) […]


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