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Situated Cognition


Situated Cognition refers to learning that occurs in a particular context and culture related to the presented activity. Situated Cognition contrasts with most classroom learning activities, as the knowledge presented is often abstract and out of context. There are two main principles related to Situated Cognition; knowledge needs to be presented in an authentic
context and learning requires social interaction and collaboration.

Wenger (1998) in Driscoll (2005, p.164) summarizes the basic premises of situated cognition theory as follows:

1. We are social beings. Far from being trivially true, this fact is a central aspect of learning.

2. Knowledge is a matter of competence with respect to valued enterprises, such as singing in tune, discovering scientific facts, fixing machines, writing poetry, being convivial, growing up as a boy or a girl, and so forth.

3. Knowing is a matter of participating in the pursuit of such enterprises, that is, of active engagement in the world.

4. Meaning – our ability to experience the world and our engagement with it as meaningful – is ultimately what learning is to produce.

Other researchers have further developed the theory of situated learning. Brown, Collins & Duguid (1989) emphasize the idea of cognitive apprenticeship: "Cognitive apprenticeship supports learning in a domain by enabling students to acquire, develop and use cognitive tools in authentic domain activity. Learning, both outside and inside school, advances through collaborative social interaction and the social construction of knowledge." Situated learning has antecedents in the work of Gibson (theory of affordances) and Vygotsky (social learning). In addition, the theory of Schoenfeld on mathematical problem solving embodies some of the critical elements of situated learning framework.

Communities of Practice

In a situated learning situation, learners become participants in a Community of Practice (CoP); a group of people with common interests who are interested in collaborating, interacting and sharing their knowledge. New learners in a CoP generally find themselves on the outskirts of the group. As they become more active participants in the CoP, their role changes from beginner to expert.

The following article outlines the theory and practice of Communities of Practice and examines some of issues and questions for informal educators and those concerned with lifelong learning.

Communities of Practice

Application and Activity

Babbel is a Web 2.0 application that promotes learning languages in a playful and intuitive way.

Go to Babbel to join the Babbel community and have fun working and learning together with others. (Joining is easy and only takes minutes; it’s fun too! If anybody is interested in learning Spanish with me, my screen name is iBike78)

In your opinion, or understanding of communities of practice, is the Web 2.0 application “babbel” a community of practice?

Does “Babbel” respond to Wenger’s (1998) three interacting dimensions of a community of practice: mutual engagement, a joint enterprise,and a shared repertoire?


Brown, J.S., Collins, A. & Duguid, S. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32-42.

Driscoll. M.P. (2005). Psychology of Learning for Instruction (pp. 153-182; Ch. 5 – Situated Cognition). Toronto, ON: Pearson.

Lave, Jean. Situated Learning. Retrieved 23 October 2008 from http://tip.psychology.org/lave.html

Smith, M. K. (2003) 'Communities of practice', the encyclopedia of informal education, http://www.infed.org/biblio/communities_of_practice.htm

Further Readings & Resources

Situated Cognition - Media Wiki

Situated Learning & Situated Cognition: A Brief Summary of WWW-based Resources