2.5 Context

Traditional approaches to learning, which see it solely as a matter of cognitive activity and the intentional transfer of knowledge between individual minds, are countered by a range of perspectives which focus on the importance of context on learning.

For example, humanistic approaches emphasise the affective dimension of learning. Learning should involve both ideas and feelings, supporting the growth of 'whole persons', not just education 'from the neck up' (Rogers 1980, 267). Situated perspectives on learning consider the social context to be the key (Lave and Wenger 1991) with learning viewed as an integral aspect of social interaction. Another perspective focuses on the learner as an embodied being rather than just a mental processor; for example, in his descriptions of croissant-making and children learning maths Papert (1993) describes how physical engagement with the subject matter can have an important impact on learning outcomes.

Learning, then, is a multi-faceted, holistic process which involves more than an increase in factual knowledge - it encompasses all aspects of cognitive, physical, emotional, social and cultural development. This should remind us to take account of the whole experience when looking to create the conditions for good learning.


Last updated: Wed Aug 28 2002

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