History & Key Persons
HISTORY & KEY PERSONS
Precedents to Situated Cognition (as summarized from Gallager, 2008):
Prior to the theory of situated cognition, philosophers were primarily concerned with the mind and tended to ignore cognition as it related to the body and environment. Thinking was taught as “context-free” or “mathematical” cognition. In the twentieth century, philosophers such as Dewey, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Wittgenstein began to acknowledge the body and environment as key variables to learning. Dewey acknowledged that learning does not happen in isolation in the mind but as environmental experiences that involve coping with problematic situations. Heidegger’s philosophy suggests that human nature is embedded within its environment and interaction with others is naturally part of the human context. Namely, situated experiences are the human experience. Later, Merleau-Ponty suggests that in order to learn within our environment, experiences must occur meaningfully as to cause attention and retention. He is quoted in Gallager 2008 as writing, “I learn [language] as I learn to use a tool, by seeing it used in the context of a certain situation” (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, p. 403).” Furthermore, Wittgenstein wrote of the context of language as seen through the context of its environment and contextual rules. He explains that language rules change according to culture and context. Meaning is derived from the context in which words are used thus acknowledgement of the environmental factors involved in learning language through situated experiences.
In the 1970’s Vygotsky wrote of the “zone of proximal development” or actual cognitive development in relation to potential development (Driscoll, 2005). Vygotsky proposed that a child’s learning potential could be greatly enhanced by engaging in a task just beyond abilities, and supported by modeling from teachers and peers. He also provided evidence for scaffolded instruction, apprenticeships and coaching.
Development of Situated Cognition
In the 1980’s, Lave and Wenger argued that learning occurs in context and through active participation within communities of practice. Suchman also proposed that learning takes place when individuals act on and with objects in the environment. In the late 1980’s Brown, Collins and Dugid wrote of cognitive apprenticeships to afford learners opportunities to transfer learning to situated contexts. (Driscoll, 2005).
In the 1990’s scholars began to acknowledge the theory of situated learning and cognition as it relates to K-12 education, teacher learning, and technology-based instruction. At the turn of the century Fred Korthagen began writing about the gap between in-service teacher behavior and the pedagogy used to instruct preservice teachers (Korthagen, 2001 and Korthagen, 2010). Herrington and Oliver, also investigated the implications of situated learning for instructional multimedia, (1995 and 2000).