As I write my prelim, I’m re-immersing myself in Situated Learning Theory. I’ve been obsessed with Instructional Design for the past few months, so I haven’t thought much about this alternative educational theory. However, I started using it early in my graduate career for a reason, and those reasons still make sense. I’m using a particular evolution of SL Theory [1] that breaks down the learning process into four components: the context, the content, scaffolds, and the assessment. In the latest iteration of my prelim, I’m crossing this with the MUSIC model of academic motivation to explore how the components provide opportunities to motivate the learners - in particular, what the context and scaffolds bring in.

While working this out, I made the following table to organize my thinking. I thought it was an interesting break-down of where motivation could apply within a learning experience. There’s a lot more not captured here in a learning experience, but this is what was useful for my research.

Situated Learning Component: Context Content Facilitations Assessment
Example “Game Design” “For Loops” Blocks-based environment, variable explorer, teaching assistants, etc. Exams, performance review, code review
eMpowerment Am I restricted by the context to explore what I want? Do I have control over the depth/breadth/direction of what I am learning? Do these scaffolds let me accomplish things I couldn’t? Do they artificially restrict me? Do I have the freedom to explore my limitations and successes in this assessment?
Usefulness Is this situated in a topic that’s worth learning? Is the content itself worth learning? Do these scaffolds let me learn enough to still be useful? Do I feel that performing well on the assessment is important?
Success Do I believe I can understand this context? Do I believe I can understand this material? Do these scaffolds hinder me or help me? Can I suceed at this assessment?
Interest Is this situated in something I find boring/interesting? Is the material inherently interesting? Do the scaffolds support my interest in the activity or detract from the experience? Am I interested in the assessment experience?
Caring Does the context give opportunities for the instructor and peers to show they care? Does the content give opportunities for the instructor and peers to show they care? Do the scaffolds give opportunities for the instructor and peers to show they care? Do the peers and instructors have an opportunity to provide support themselves? Does the assessment give opportunities for the instructor and peers to show they care?

This is only a small part of what I’m doing in my prelim overall. For instance, there’s all the fancy software I’m writing to fill out the scaffolds column. Still, I think this is an interesting way of looking at the components of the course.

[1] Choi, Jeong-Im, and Michael Hannafin. “Situated cognition and learning environments: Roles, structures, and implications for design.” Educational Technology Research and Development 43.2 (1995): 53-69.