About Level3
Search archives
- June 2007
- August 2006
- May 2005
- June 2004
- November 2003
DIT Home

Read postings about this article   |   Post a comment about this article  |  print this article [pdf]

Theories of learning and curriculum design
Key positionalities and their relationships

Author - Tony Cunningham, Julie Gannon, Mary Kavanagh, John Greene, Louise Reddy, Laurence Whitson

[<<previous][ next>>]

Show/ hide article menu (click icons opposite)

Type of model

This is a capability model and one not easily evaluated. Learning centres around teamwork and the ability to engage and socially interact and also on how competently the learner can engage with the task. Learning may be unintentional as well as intentional, and therefore is hard to measure.

Metaphor/s of learning

Individuals work together sharing ideas, views and opinions. Learning occurs as a result of this co-operation and therefore new knowledge is co-created or constructed through negotiation with others. Learning may be achieved through combined abilities.

Implications for Higher Education

Areas that might be considered under this model are work-based or professional practice environments where learning is centred on the day-to-day involvement of the individual within the workplace and through their interaction with others.

Situated learning model


This model stresses the integral link between context, social environment and learning. Learning is a function of the activity, context and culture in which it occurs. Therefore knowledge is meaningful when it is learned in an authentic context and situation. Knowledge is linked to a specific task within a particular context in a given social environment: therefore learning is situated. The emphasis is on providing meaningful and relevant learning experiences in authentic contexts.

Origin of learning goals

Learning is contextual and embedded within a social situation. Learning goals are dictated by the particulars of any given situation within the environment.


When learning takes place within a social or community-based environment, motivation is both external and collective (for instance a common purpose within a team). Learning arises from events that unfold within the environment. As a member of a group there is a collective desire to address any specific learning goals.

Learning theory

As with the activity model, situated learning also adopts constructivist principles. Social interaction is a critical component of situated learning: learners become involved in a ‘community of practice’ that embodies certain beliefs and behaviours. Participatory learning theory claims that knowledge is not a thing or set of descriptions, nor a collection of facts and rules that can be transmitted to the learner but rather that knowledge is constructed by the learner.


Major contributors to the situated learning model include the following.

Jean Lave (contemporary)

Lave believes that social interaction is a crucial part of situated learning and that the beliefs and behaviour within the culture of a community of practice contribute to the learner’s acquisition of knowledge. She believes that learning is more natural when it takes place in the environment where it is supposed to occur, and that learning in the classroom is abstract. The learner starts as a beginner and gradually becomes an expert.


[<<previous][ next>>]