Situated learning and the management of learning: a case study




Barton, Karen
McKellar, Patricia
Maharg, Paul

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Taylor & Francis


Situated learning, focusing on the pragmatic and social aspects of learning, has as its basis the notion that learning is essentially dependent on the immediate situation of action. It is a strength of the theory that it supports learner‐centred instructional design (ID), and supports a constructivist approach to ID. Nevertheless, even a learner‐centred theory such as situated learning requires more if its product is to be successful in facilitating learning. Student learning requires management at every level: within individual learning activities, within a module syllabus and within a curriculum. The contextual issues which go to make up such management, and the relations between situated learning theory and learning management, are the focus of this paper. We shall argue that it is essential for the success of embedded IT that instructional designers pay attention to learning management issues, that they signal the presence of these issues in their courseware documentation, and that lecturers and tutors who use the courseware should take these issues into account when implementing and embedding computer‐based learning in the curriculum. As an example of this argument we take our computer‐based learning program the Virtual Court Action. This program was designed to be used in the learning and teaching of procedural law in a Scottish university law curriculum. Using document assembly techniques and email, this program emulates part of a civil court action in a Scottish court, with identical personnel, legal documents and procedure. The place of situated learning theory in its design is described, and the learning management issues germane to its implementation are analysed. Finally, we show how the attention paid to learning management issues contributed to the success of the program. 'Acting on the world to learn about concepts is not a straightforward issue.'1 'Old‐fashioned pocket knives … have a device for removing stones from horses’ hooves. People with this device may know its use and be able to talk wisely about horses, hooves and stones. But they may never betray ‐ or even recognise ‐ that they would not begin to know how to use this implement on a horse.'2



legal education



The Law Teacher


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Open Access

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