Annotated Bibliography of Resources for Educational Reform, Coherent Teaching Practice, and Improved Student Learning

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

Drawing on research into cognition as it is revealed in everyday activity, the authors argue that knowledge is situated, being in part a product of the activity, context, and culture in which it is developed and used. Concepts are developed in the context of their use in much the same way as meanings of words are developed. The authors compare knowledge to a set of tools. Tools (and knowledge) can only be fully understood through use, and using them entails changing the user's view of the world and adopting the belief system of the culture in which they were produced. The authors discuss how this view of knowledge affects our understanding of learning. They note that conventional schooling often ignores the influence of school culture on what is learned in school. For example, the ways schools use dictionaries, math formulae, or historical analysis are very different from the ways practitioners use them. Many of the activities students undertake are simply not the activities of practitioners and make little sense outside of school. They propose cognitive apprenticeship as an alternative to conventional practice. Cognitive apprenticeship methods try to enculturate students into authentic practices through activities and social interactions. Examples from mathematics classes are provided to illustrate this idea.

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