Learning Theories

4 Situated Learning Theory


Watch overview videoAn Introduction to Situated Learning Theory (4:18)


Situated Learning Theory was initially proposed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in the late 1980s. The concept of Situated Learning Theory is that learning occurs within authentic context, culture, and activity and that it is widely unintentional.   It promotes the idea that students learn better in collaborative group settings and when the activities are based on real-life experiences.

Guidelines for Use

Guideline 1 – Authentic Contexts

Learning involves a setting that creates an authentic real-life context.  Activities should include opportunities for students to explore and investigate from a wide variety of sources.  The investigation should focus on a relatively wide focus rather than smaller fragmented tasks so that relevant information can be sought.

Guideline 2 – Legitimate Peripheral Practice/ Scaffolding

Students start at the periphery of the learning as a novice in the subject matter and instructors become more of a facilitator and provide scaffolding of the learning.  As the students expand their knowledge, the scaffolding is removed, and they move toward becoming an expert in the subject.

Guideline 3 – Community of Practice/ Collaboration

Students move from the periphery within the community of practice circle as they learn and collaborate with one another.  Activities are designed with the group setting that allows for various viewpoints and difference of opinion. Opportunities for students to interact with experts in the subject matter is another important aspect of building their community of practice.

Good Examples of Use

Example 1 – Nearpod

This tool allows the instructor to create lesson and insert activities such as collaborate, quizzes and virtual field trips.  Nearpod lessons could be either teacher led in the classroom or student led. There is an opportunity for reflective practice in open ended questions.

Example 2 – Google Classroom

This tool allows the instructor to create lessons that can be student led.  There is the ability to insert activities and links to outside sources for discovery.   Instructors can facilitate the learning and students can collaborate and work on activities through add-ins such as Google Slides and Google Docs.

Helpful Resources

Resource 1 – Video on Situated Learning Theory

This is a short 4-minute video explaining the Situated Learning Theory.

Resource 2 – Situated Learning Theory on Learning-Theories.com

This website provides a brief overview of the Situated Learning Theory.

Resource 3 – Paper on Using Situated Learning

This paper by Ron Oliver and Jan Herrington is a helpful resource on how to use situated learning as a design strategy for web-based learning.


David L,. (2007).  Situated learning theory.  Learning Theories. [Web page]. Retrieved from:  https://www.learning-theories.com/situated-learning-theory-lave.html

Northern Illinois University.  (n.d.). Situated learning. [PDF file]. Retrieved from:  https://www.niu.edu/facdev/_pdf/guide/strategies/situated_learning.pdf

Oliver, Ron & Herrington, Jan. (2000). Using situated learning as a design strategy for web-based learning. [Web page]. Retrieved from:  https://www.researchgate.net/publication/229439467_Using_Situated_Learning_as_a_Design_Strategy_for_Web-Based_Learning


Submitted by: Andrea Dyack
Email: andrea.dyack@ontariotechu.net
Bio: Faculty at Southern Ontario Dental College and current graduate student in the Master of Education program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.


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E-Learning Essentials 2020 by Power Learning Solutions is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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