Recently I’ve been learning about situated learning. Here are some thoughts connecting situated learning to Jazz.
Lave and Wenger (1991) in their book Situated Learning describe learning within a situation, within a community, as situated learning. A key component of situated learning is “legitimate peripheral participation”, which means that newcomers to a world of knowledge or skill begin by participating with an old-timer (expert learner), and by virtue of that peripheral participation they grow to become an old-timer. The peripheral participation is legitimate in that the relationship is either formalized (i.e. apprentice) or informally understood by expert and newcomer.
In Jazz, 5 lead facilitators each mentor a group of 3-4 facilitators. The lead facilitators organize the activities, delegate tasks such as leading a simulation, preparing materials, and mentor the facilitators in best practice. The work of preparing for the workshop and delivering the workshop is accomplished together. This way the newcomers have “access” to the old-timers and learning occurs as the work is accomplished. Preparation for the workshop includes several meetings beforehand where we walk through the each part of the workshop. During the workshop, newcomers may lead a section, with the lead facilitator on hand in case questions arise. After each day, the facilitators debrief with their lead facilitator. As we talk through how the day went, each facilitator is learning, reflecting, and refining their training practice.
Lave and Wenger suggest that in a learning community, there is a set of relations between the newcomers and old-timers through the cycles of learning. “The community of practice encompasses apprentices, young masters with apprentices, and masters some of whose apprentices have themselves become masters” (p. 57). The learning occurs across the layers of relationships, between near-peers, and across learning cycles (See Figure 2). Within the Jazz Workshop, the knowledgeable skills in facilitation, technology training, and collaborative technology tools move in and across each circle of learning. Everyone contributes to the continual improvement of the workshop and therefore our continued practice of implementing videoconferencing in the curriculum.
Another key component of legitimate peripheral participation is that participation is at first partial, and grows in scope and complexity. A new facilitator often is overwhelmed with the complexity of the workshop and the details to attend. The lead facilitator at first gives the new facilitator simple tasks, such as an introduction to a simulation or a debrief of a simulation using a PowerPoint overview already created. As the new facilitator gains in skill, and relationship builds that the lead facilitators see the skills, the facilitator begins to contribute knowledge, handouts, resources, to improve the quality of the workshop. As they learn the components of the Jazz workshop, they learn the culture of Jazz, the ways we integrate videoconferencing in the curriculum, and the foundational beliefs of constructivist learning and collaboration.
In the first year of facilitating Jazz, the newcomer is getting the big picture or broad view of what the workshop is all about. They have strong goals to learn how the workshop runs. Yet after they have the big picture, the learning can occur rapidly between peers and near-peers as the facilitators compare notes and learn professional development techniques from each other. Lave and Wenger suggest that the effectiveness of the circulation of knowledge among peers may be a condition for the effectiveness of learning (p. 93). Web 2.0 tools such as Skype chat, facilitator blogs, running conversations throughout the year on Twitter all contribute to the circulation of information and knowledge within the Jazz learning community.
What do you think? Are you in a learning community that includes situated learning?
7/8/09 update. Added some pictures!