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  • Cited by 29
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: June 2012

7 - Opportunities to Learn in Practice and Identity


Following Suchman, (1985), Lave, (1988), Lave and Wenger (1991), Hutchins, (1995a), Engeström, (1999), and others, we take a situative perspective in our research and, in this chapter, regarding opportunity to learn (OTL). Conducting analyses of learning with this perspective involves defining activity systems as the unit of analysis, which includes one or more persons interacting with each other and with material and informational resources that are present in the setting. The main emphasis of the situative perspective is on how learning by individuals and groups is accomplished through interaction between elements of an activity system. Of course there are changes in the participating individuals' mental structures, including schemata, but these are not the primary focus of our analyses. In this view, learning by an individual in a community is conceptualized as a trajectory of that person's participation in the community – a path with a past and present, shaping possibilities for future participation. Learning by a group or community is also conceptualized as a trajectory – a path that corresponds to change in the community's practices.


Individuals Learning in a Community

Lave and Wenger (1991) outlined a situative framework on learning by considering the trajectories of individuals' participation as they become members of a community of practice. As individuals initially join a new activity, their involvement is limited to peripheral participation.

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