Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Can lpp explain autodidactic learning?

The first question that struck me was: Can all examples of human learning be described in terms of legitimate peripheral participation? What about autodidactic learning? There are many examples. The well-recognized Russian mathematician Sonja Kovalevskaja, being born in the 19th century, did not have access to an oldtimer and other novices in her field that she could observe or communicate with, nor did she have opportunities to gain hands-on practice. However, before she was finally given schooling, she had already become a miniature expert from autodidactic studying. Eventually she became part of a “community of practice” (in terms of legitimate peripheral participation), but my question remains. If tomorrow I decide to learn how to play the piano without an instructor, I might never become as good as if I had the chance to observe an oldtimer, but I might still learn how to play decently. Can one person pursuing autodidactic studies be a community of practice himself? Can books and exploration at least in the first stages of task acquisition substitute the community of practice?

Leve and Wenger explicitely state that they did not want to make prescriptions for instruction and teaching curricula. But from my understanding of their concept of legitimate peripheral participation, there are some connections to Vygotskian theories of learning and in the decades to follow his work, their have been a number of interventions that were developed to improve instruction and learning. Brown and Palinscar’s Reciprocal teaching and Procedural Facilitation of Writing (I cannot remember the author) immediately jumped to my mind. In the latter form of intervention, there are a master (the teacher), newcomers (the students), observation (the teacher gives a life-example of developing ideas for and structuring an essay while thinking aloud) and there is practice (the students have the opportunity to apply the method that the teacher has used.) So, can this be regarded as an example where legitimate peripheral participation can be applied to inspire teaching? (Although the term had not existed when these interventions were first published.)
From a psychologist’s perspective Situated Learning was very interesting to me because it brought to my mind all the theories of learning that I have studied. Although being familiar with constructivist and socio-constructivist theories of learning, I had not come across the term legitimate peripheral participation and I have to admit that I once had a notion of what situated learning means, but while reading the book, the meaning of legitimate peripheral participation became clearer to me and at the same time my notion of situated learning began to blur. So is situated learning simply a new term that Lave and Wenger assign to their definition of situated learning or does situated learning describe a different concept?

Situated Learning definitely made me aware that sometimes I believe too strongly that instruction and teaching strategies have exactly the effects that we intend them to have, but still I do not completely agree with Lave and Wenger that teaching curricula hinder learning.


Blogger gt said...

I think your paper-writing example would not qualify as legitimate peripheral participation. It seems as though in order to qualify, the master and students would need to co-construct a paper. As the example stands, it seems to be an ordinary teacher using an example to teach students how to perform.

9:46 AM  
Blogger asw said...

Can you tell me more about autodidatic learning? I am not familiar with the concept....being from the Journalism School they don't go into those aspects with us unfortunately...

But in regards to your comment about learning piano -- I think I may have understood Lave and Wenger differently than you -- in which I don't see the student who learns to play piano without instructor as lost or without the ability to learn it --- I think the opportunity to learn it is still there -- through the artifacts of the music and the situations the student puts himself into to learn piano help contribute to his participatory learning of the piano - he does not learn it alone but through the help of those who are near him and hear of his experiences in learning, the music sheets he uses and books that others have written, and I am sure the student would seek out communities of other players by which to gain some additional knowledge - going to concerts or listening to this sense his learning by practice could be similiar to the Yuca midwives...I think it could be possible and that he could achieve much more than decent playing from the perspective I took from the reading...

5:56 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I really like ASW's remark here - in fact, I couldn't have said it better myself. Whether a learner is interacting with teachers or artifacts, s/he is interacting with the histories and cultural norms that come along with the tools used.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Alison said...

Me too - I like the way asw points out the interaction with the artifacts. In self-study books are the community, the thought collective, the thought style.

I don't think L&W gave enough attention to the curriculum idea but the point that resonated with me was that a teaching curriculum is almost always controlled by the instrutor as thus the learner does not have access to it. This bothers me a lot because if we believe learning is about making connections and that individuals learn differently, then why the power game? Why not allow the student access - we see this learner/teacher curriculum conflict in contemporary issues of posting notes prior to class and having wireless access which taps the motivated individual into a multitude of information. Personally, I love being able to google a concept that comes up in class even if it's not on the syllabus until the next month becuase it might help me paint a broader understanding or use prior knowledge that the instructor is not tapping.

10:09 AM  

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