SITUATED LEARNING: what it is, phases, characteristics, authors and examples

  • Jul 26, 2021
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Situated learning: what is it, phases, characteristics, authors and examples

Another important approach in the realm of constructivism is localized learning, which asserts that learning is develops as a result of participation in activities, in specific contexts and in relationships with people. Authentic learning is always situated: that is why there cannot be an abstract learning of a situation; furthermore, from the learner's point of view, it is usually unintentional and is characterized as a natural derivation of an authentic interaction. In this Psychology-Online article we will better understand what is localized learning, the authors who have theorized it, its phases and characteristics, and also some examples.

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  1. What is situated learning and authors
  2. Phases of situated learning
  3. Characteristics of situated learning

What is situated learning and authors.

The concept of situated learning (situated learning theory) certainly has parallels with that of individual learning.

Jean Lave (1988) originally proposed the theory of localized learning and later developed into a learning model of Brown et al. (1989). More specifically, Lave and Wenger developed the concept of localized learning as the end point of their research on learning.

Lave (1988) states that learning depends on the activity, context and culture in which it occurs, namely, is located. An example of this situated learning is when children learn about fruits and vegetables in the garden, at the market, and in the kitchen preparing food. Instead of looking at pictures in a book. This imposition contrasts with most of the learning activities in class, which instead imply an abstract and de-witnessed knowledge.

The key principles of localized learning are:

  • Learning occurs based on the activity, conflict and culture in which it takes place.
  • Social interaction is the key to localized learning.
  • Learning tasks must be presented in authentic contexts.
  • Learning requires social interaction and collaboration.
  • Learning is facilitated and encouraged when scaffolding opportunities are offered.

Situated learning theory has underlined the value of context in the learning process, stating that most of what is learned is specific to the situation in which it is learned. More than abstract notions, social roles, communication practices, behaviors, even useful unwritten rules are learned to move on problematic occasions. From this perspective, learning can be described not as content acquisition, but as participation (increasingly intense) in the meaningful practices of a community.

Phases of situated learning.

Hernandez e Diaz (2015) mention that to develop situated learning they must be carried out in four steps:

  1. Start from reality. Before addressing content, it is necessary to address a meaningful daily life experience for the student, use the real life of the educating as a learning input, so that it allows you to recognize and connect life with education and discover that they are related to one the other. The mediator must be an expert in being able to link experiences or aspects of the daily life of their students with the content of the subject (s).
  2. Analysis and reflectionIn this second step, it is time for the contents; Students read, research to reflect on definitions, and analyze the knowledge in question. At this time triggering questions are asked for students to reflect, analyze and stimulate their cognitive ability; the mediator demonstrates mastery of the content and knowledge of the subject (s) involved in order to link them with the previous step: starting from reality. The objective of this step is for students to master the content not by memorization but by explanation.
  3. Solve in common. It is the moment in which students exercise the experience of life and the contents learned in a school practice. The mediator must be an expert in designing practices where their students demonstrate the acquired knowledge applied to a problem or to solve a case. This step is the most important of situated learning, because it is where students apply and check steps 1 and 2. In this step, different skills are developed in turn, collaborative work, communication, creativity and innovation. Designing school practices is the best way to create a transformative education.
  4. Communicate and transfer. The teacher and the students themselves select the best way to socialize the learning achieved, Hernández & Díaz mention that “communicate and transferring learning makes others not only know the learning experienced but also join it, reinforce it, become "accomplices" of the".

Characteristics of situated learning.

Lave and Wenger alternatively propose a theory that places learning in the context of specific forms of social participation; for them, learning is an integral and inseparable aspect of social practice. It is in this sense that we use the adjective "situated" referring to educational action, precisely to affirm:

  • The relational character of knowledge and learning.
  • The negotiated character of meaning, and the interested, engaged and motivated nature of the learning activity for the people involved.
  • The social character of learning that always occurs in relation to a context; the same mind, far from being an empty container to be filled, is built on action and interaction within a social world; learning is not found simply in practice, but it is an integral part of social practice in the world.
  • The negotiating character of participation: "participation is always based on situated negotiation and renegotiation of the meaning of the world. This means that understanding and experience are in constant interaction, in fact, they build on each other.
  • The localized character knowledge, as it is inseparable from active participation in the context and product of social practices.

The person who learns does not acquire, in the learning process, abstract knowledge that can later be transported and applied in other contexts, but acquires the ability to act effectively engaging in practice, according to the modalities that the authors call "legitimate peripheral participation", that is, according to modalities that imply a gradual taking of responsibility and first limited participation, then, with increasing experience, increasing, until participation complete.

In these articles, you will find more information about the Ausubel meaningful learning Y Vygotsky's sociocultural theory.

This article is merely informative, in Psychology-Online we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.

If you want to read more articles similar to Situated learning: what is it, phases, characteristics, authors and examples, we recommend that you enter our category of Cognitive psychology.


  • Del Gottardo, E. (2016). Educating community, expectant learning, competent community. Naples: Giapeto Editore.
  • Pérez Salazar, G. G. (2017). Learning situated before a constructivist theory in postmodernity. Recovered from:
  • Petti, L. (2011). Apprendimento informale in Rete. Dalla progettazione to the maintenance of the community on line. Milan: Franco Angeli.
  • Veneziani, M. (2016). What future for l’accounting education? Criticità e aspetti evolutivi. Milan: Franco Angeli.

Situated learning: what is it, phases, characteristics, authors and examples

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