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Contextual Learning

Contextual Learning is based on a constructivist theory of teaching and learning.  Learning takes place when teachers are able to present information in a way that students are able to construct meaning based on their own experiences. 

Dig It Projects can provide a permanent soloution to the points below by introducing bespoke play and learn features to your outdoor areas.  If we take an average piece of traditional play equipment ie. a 'Play Boat', this will always be a 'Play Boat' as by its very nature is the shape , design that replicates what it is and to a child there imagination is not being stretched therefore it will always remain a 'Play Boat'. Dig It Projects can design and provide something that maybe close to this but also has other functional features and just by changing the shape then this interacts more with the childs sense to create there own feature or use from the equipment, a bit like the card board box syndrome where the childs present has arrived and they would rather play with the box than the actual toy.  The clever use of different materials and shapes can stretch the childs imagination and creative thinking that will enhance their learning experience outside the classroom.

Contextual learning has the following characteristics:

  • emphasizing problem solving
  • recognizing that teaching and learning need to occur in multiple contexts
  • assisting students in learning how to monitor their learning and thereby become self-regulated learners
  • anchoring teaching in the diverse life context of students
  • encouraging students to learn from each other
  • employing authentic assessment

Key elements

Current perspectives on what it means for learning to be contextualized include

  • situated cognition- all learning is applied knowledge
  • social cognition- intrapersonal constructs
  • distributed cognition- constructs that are continually shaped by other people and things outside the individual

Constructivist learning theory maintains that learning is a process of constructing meaning from experience.  Contextual learning may be useful for child development if it provides learning experiences in a context in which children are interested and motivated. Various experiential learning theorists have contributed to an understanding of contextual learning.

Benefits of contextual learning.

  • Both direct instruction and constructivist activities can be compatible and effective in the achievement of learning goals.
  • Increasing one’s efforts results in more ability. This theory opposes the notion that one’s aptitude is unchangeable. Striving for learning goals motivates an individual to be engaged in activities with a commitment to learning.
  • Children learn the standards values, and knowledge of society by raising questions and accepting challenges to find solutions that are not immediately apparent. Other learning processes are explaining concepts, justifying their reasoning and seeking information. Therefore, learning is a social process which requires social and cultural factors to be considered during instructional planning. This social nature of learning also drives the determination of the learning goals.
  • Knowledge and learning are situated in particular physical and social context. A range of settings may be used such as the home, the community, and the workplace, depending on the purpose of instruction and the intended learning goals.
  • Knowledge may be viewed as distributed or stretched over the individual, other persons, and various artifacts such as physical and symbolic tools and not solely as a property of individuals. Thus, people, as an integral part of the learning process, must share knowledge and tasks.

Assessment in Contextual learning.

One of the main goals of contextual learning is to develop an authentic task to assess performance. Creating an assessment in a context can help to guide the teacher to replicate a real world experiences and make necessary inclusive design decisions. Contextual learning can be used as a form of formative assessment and can help give educators a stronger profile on how the intended learning goals, standards and benchmarks fit the curriculum. It is essential to establish and align the intended learning goals of the contextual task at the beginning to create a shared understanding of what success looks like states that humans by nature seek purpose and the desire to make a contribution and to be part of a cause greater and more enduring then oneself. Contextual learning can help bring relevance and meaning to the learning, helping students relate to the world they live in. 

Questions to address when defining and developing a contextual task.

  • Does the task fulfill the intended learning goals?
  • Does the task involve problems that require the students to use their knowledge creatively to find a solution?
  • Is the task an engaging learning experience?
  • Is the audience as authentic as possible?
  • Does the task require students to use processes, products and procedures that simulate those used by people working in a similar field?
  • Is the task inclusive?
  • Are there clear criteria for students on how the product, performance or service will be evaluated?
  • Are there models of excellence which demonstrate standards?
  • Are the students involved in the assessment process?
  • Is there a provision made for continuous formative feedback, from oneself, from teachers and peers to help the students improve?
  • Is there an opportunity for student choice and ownership to the extent that would be.