Educational Research: Discipline and Diversity

Year: 1992

Author: Billett, Stephen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The current interest in situated cognition has largely manifested itself in research and theorising directed towards improving the processes of formal education. These efforts are guided by a desire to remove the distance between the environments in which the knowledge is learnt and applied. However, natural settings, such as the workplace, provide attributes such as authentic activities and access to experts which are so highly prized in the current research and theorising about cognition. Consequently, workplaces should provide optimal settings for the development of vocational skills and expertise. This paper reports the findings of a study conducted within the coal mining industry in Queensland which examines perceptions of skilled workers about environments and conditions which are supportive of acquiring vocational skills. The study compares perceptions about different modes of skill development and concludes that the current research on learning in natural settings is generally supported by skilled workers in this industry. These findings are used to speculate about theories which emphasise the socio-cultural and environmental contributions to learning.