Situated learning: what is it?

The world is no longer the same as it was years ago, however some tools and strategies that are used to know and learn about it still are. In this article we will talk about situated learning as an alternative to static.

Education tends to maintain a traditional teaching patternoriented more towards transmitting knowledge than producing it collectively. In this sense, some theories and proposals try to change course. This is the case with situated learning.

What is situated learning?

As the name suggests, situated learning takes into account the sociocultural context when considering different situations, so it’s specific and sensitive to the community you work in. In this sense it is very useful, practical and close, since all those topics that we can connect to things that they look familiar and daily life are fixed much more strongly.

As expressed by Sagastegui (2004), situated learning sums up the ideal to achieve a pedagogy that builds solid and flexible bridges. Education and daily practices are inseparable.

On the other hand, as it promotes building and finding solutions collectively, too strengthens teamwork and exchange skills. A situation is approached jointly, with as many nuances as there are people involved, which makes it possible to develop a rich vision based on diversity.

In this way, the learning process ceases to be abstract and transcends the transmission of knowledge or content to become a participatory, active and social process.

We need to look for the big theoretical and conceptual framework for understanding situated learning in constructivism, which takes such figures as Piaget and Vygotsky as its background. Constructivism is based on the idea of ​​a motivated and active subject and interacting with the environment.

Stages and components of situated learning

Situated learning theory was developed by Etienne Wenger, an educational theorist and practitioner, and Jean Lave, a social anthropologist. For both, learning is related to a process by which knowledge is acquired in practicethrough multiple actors, involving both the teacher and the students.

From there also arises the idea of ​​communities of practice as social groups that are formed to develop knowledge, from the interaction between its members and from the reflection of their experiences. Their common concern leads to their commitment to find a solution.

Teacher in situated learning study group.
Situated learning fosters joint problem solving by providing different perspectives.


As for the components, mention Wenger 3 components that must always occur: participation, practice and belonging. That is, opportunities will be provided to intervene within a group that recognizes a problem and shares an identity.

Furthermore, Lave and Wenger cite some characteristics that all situated learning processes must respect and are the following:

  • relational and social naturegiven that learning happens in interactions and in a specific context, so it also has a place.
  • negotiating character. Being a collective construction, the different points of view are valid, but to reach an agreement it is necessary to agree.

Stages of situated learning

Various authors, including Hernández and Diaz (2015), have proposed the developmental stages of situated learning. They could be summarized as follows:

  1. Take reality as a starting point: the content must be related to something close and everyday. This will make it easier to establish the connection. To choose culturally and socially relevant activities, you need to know the community.
  2. Analysis and reflection: At this point, trigger questions are applied to open discussion and sharing. Teachers have to gradually moderate the discussion and add reflections and knowledge that allow to orientate and connect the content with real situations. His role is more supportive. The different subjectivities need to be validated and recognized.
  3. Solve together: The objective of this phase is for the students to verify what they have learned, to make it more concrete. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most important stages, as it requires prior planning.
  4. Communicate and transfer: it is about socializing the learning experience, recognizing achievements and difficulties, sharing the process.

Examples of activities

It can be applied in all phases, with the sole condition of adapting to the evolutionary cycle of the people to whom it is addressed. How boys and girls learn the most: by visiting a farm and getting to know each other on site animals or pictures in class?

In the case of teenagers, they can learn much more about economics and management, for example, by setting up their own company. It can also be applied in the workplace; in medical residences.

Situated learning is not intended to devalue traditional forms of educationbut it indicates the contribution of new and more creative ways, valuing cooperation and reciprocity.

Medical students in situated learning.
The study of medicine, for example, cannot be completed without situated learning, as it is a highly practical profession.

Situated learning democratizes education

“Knowledge that doesn’t come from experience isn’t really knowing.” This idea of ​​Vygotsky’s reflects the interest in praxis present in situated learning.

Encouraging participation, accompanying as a teacher from a horizontal place and considering that everyone has something to teach are aspects that facilitate learning experiences. Aspects that make them even closer, pleasant and memorable.

Furthermore, situated learning invites going beyond individual educational trajectories to promote what can be taught and learned together, by the collective. Education is always being and taking place and we are all participants and builders.

Finally, it expands opportunities by taking them out of the classroom, making education once again more democratic.

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