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This discussion centers around the term context. In the educational literature a context is usually any place or situation outside the classroom. The debate focuses on whether learning in the classroom can be successfully applied to some real-life context.
The key researcher in this debate is Jean Lave who looked closely at mathematical skills learned in different contexts. Her research, notably with Liberian tailors, young Brazilian merchants, dieters following recipes, and shoppers trying to determine the best value, revealed that each of these groups found ways of solving mathematical problems without using the general math techniques taught in school. Lave published her findings in her 1988 book Cognition in Practice: Mind, Mathematics and Culture in Everyday Life. (more…)
The authors argue that all knowledge is situated, that is, it has a context. The biologist practices his craft in the world of flora and fauna and addresses real problems. What educators inevitably try to extract from the observed practitioner is what Seely Brown calls explicit knowledge . The contents of a text book demonstrate the look and feel of this kind of knowledge. But, Brown argues, the biologist also makes use of another kind of knowledge which he calls tacit knowledge. This knowledge embodies the tricks of the trade, the special strategies, or the rules of thumb known to any good biologist. This latter type of knowledge does not get captured when we try to emulate the knowledge of the biologist in classroom curriculum. According to Seely Brown et al