Situated cognition

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  • Situated cognition theories claim that learning happens in context as people address challenges and problems.
  • In situated cognition the mutual relationships of context and content, of the individual and the environment, and of knowing and doing are understood through the belief that learning is situated and continuously advances through activity in a community of practice (Moss 2000: 9)
  • Whereas traditional perspectives describe knowing and thinking as isolated activities that occur primarily within the context of the cerebellum, many current theorists argue that thinking is situated; that is, being in part a product of the content, activity, and culture in which it is developed and applied (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989). Situated cognition is a recent term for a family of research efforts that explain cognition, including problem solving, sense making, understanding, transfer of learning, and creativity, in terms of the relationship between learners and the properties of specific environments. From a situated perspective it becomes impossible, and irrelevant, to separate the learner, the material to be learned, and the context in which learning occurs. A contrast can be made with schema theories in which knowledge is considered to be solely contained within the learner (represented in memory as schemata or mental models), and with behaviorist theories in which cognition plays a less central role. (Barab 2000: 1)

See also situated learning which refers to more or less the same thoughts and shared cognition.


  • Barab,S.A. K. E. Hay & T.M. Duffy (2000), Grounded Constructions and How Technology Can Help, CRLT Technical Report No. 12-00, The Center for Research on Learning and Technologyn, Indiana University.
  • Brown, J. S., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning.Educational Researcher, 18 (1), 32-42.
  • Hung, D. W. L., and Chen, D.-T. 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, no. 1 (March 2001): 3-12.
  • Bitterman, J. (2000), Learning Communities, in Marsick,V.J, Bitterman, J. & van der Veen, R. From the Learning Organization to Learning Communities toward a Learning Society, ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Center on Education and Training for Employment, College of Education, The Ohio State University
  • Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in Practice: Mind, mathematics, and culture in everyday life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lave, Jean, & Wenger, Etienne (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Moss, C.M. and Shank,G. (2000) Using Qualitative Processes in Computer Technology Research on Online Learning: Lessons in Change from "Teaching as Intentional Learning", Forum Qualitative Research, vol. 3, no. 2