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Observational and Situated Learning

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02.10.2019
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Observational and situated learning are two ways that help to acquire entrepreneurial knowledge. Entrepreneurs learn entrepreneurial skills through these ways, in most cases, combining them. Observational learning involves studying by following a role model who used to be or remains an entrepreneur. The performance of the model affects learners differently. Situated learning involves the learner’s participation in communities of practice, which helps them acquire information. Some are intentional while others are the default. People participate in various communities of practice either by choice or because they have to. Observational and situated learning are two channels of disseminating knowledge to entrepreneurs; they teach whether to venture into entrepreneurship, how to run an enterprise, and how to be innovative. The two knowledge processes are similar in many ways and are quite different at the same time. In both cases, the knowledge process takes place in a natural environment and not in a classroom. Since the learning process takes place among people, close relationships between the learner and the society are mandatory. However, situated learning is, to some extent, an active way of learning through participation, while observational one is passive. Also, in situated learning, the learner acquires knowledge by making an effort, while in observational learning, the person studies with the help of model activities. This essay will analyze some of the differences and similarities of observational and situated learning as channels for mastering entrepreneurial skills.

The society plays a considerable role in the studying process. In observational learning, the paradigm operates within the borders of business in society, and the learner evaluates his or her performance according to the parameters set in the society. It is impossible to assess the success of the model with regard to financial grounds (Hamilton 2011). The learner admires the success of the models as per the society’s standards and self-satisfaction. The society defines who a successful business person is, and, according to this definition, the learners evaluate their models (Wang & Chugh 2014). Different environments convey different messages concerning entrepreneurship because communities preserve their intrinsic values. The apprentice and the paradigm are just variables in the entirety of the community; their conduct and reasoning are completely dominated by society. It means that the orientation matters a lot both to the model and the learner. In situated learning, the novice is a part of a vast community and absorbs morals, rules, norms, and ways of doing things in this environment. Every community has defined rules, practices, norms, and activities. New individuals only marginally participate in practices of the community (Bosma, Hessels, Schutjens, Praag & Verheul 2012). Step by step, people who have participated in the life of the community for some time follow new practices and develop a sense of indemnity and belonging (McDermott 2000). When a person gets accustomed to the community practices, he or she acquires knowledge. The communities are distinct, and every individual belongs to several communities, which may lead to a conflict. Every individual should participate in the practices of different communities, which at times may be hard and bewildering. Fostering participation in the lives of different communities, the learner manages to acquire a lot of useful data, and, in his or her turn, they share their knowledge with other participants as well.

Learning takes place in a natural environment. Both situated and observational learning proposes to take place in a natural environment, without any controlled occurrences. Although most professional communities of practice are intentionally made, they are considered informal. This unofficial nature stimulates natural interactions, which facilitates knowledge transfer without supervision. There is no imposition of any form, so everything that happens there is ultimately natural (Wenger, & Snyder, 2000). In observational learning, the model is usually a relative or a parent. Therefore, the interactions between the learner and the model are not official or imposed. The two parties communicate on a parent-child basis, and the learner studies independently. It is the learner who identifies admiration or contempt of the model and considers entrepreneurship a venture worth undertaking (Scherer, Adams, Carley & Weibe 1989). The nature of the learning environment influences knowledge transfer. There are usually no tensions in the learning process, and the learner gains as much knowledge as he or she can (Kempster 2009). The lack of artificial control in these two methods of tacit knowledge transfer is significant since learners interact with their knowledge sources without any sense of fear or obligation. Moreover, the circumstances that trigger erudition are real-life incidences that occur in the business world. As a result, the learner gets to know the reality about entrepreneurship, and he or she may learn from both failures and successes. Scherer, Adams, Carley, & Weibe 1989 say that apprentices with low performing paradigms learn from the models’ fiasco and know what not to do so as to succeed in business (Scherer, Adams, Carley & Weibe 1989). Wenger and Snyder 2000 contend that solving new challenges delineates the success of professional communities of practice (Wenger & Snyder, 2000). A spontaneous milieu allows the novice to interact with information in the real world.

Relations are critical. Analogous to observational learning, which necessitates a close interaction between the model and the apprentice, situated learning also involves close connections between the parties to enable the student to learn as much as possible. If an individual benefits from observational or situated learning, he or she must keep a close relationship with the source of the knowledge (Hoffmann, Junge & Malchow-Moller 2015). In observational learning, the individual has to keep track of all the activities, enforcement, and outcomes of the model to learn from him or her. It is unavoidable to identify both positive and negative strategies in the models’ entrepreneurial life. In order to be able to learn much about a person, yet not actively taking part in the running of the business or playing a subordinate role, a very close relationship is mandatory (Wang & Chugh 2014). The apprentice should interpret different models of communication strategies and reactions. Correspondingly, full participation in communities of practice and close interactions with other members is crucial (Wood & Bandura 1989). It is impractical to acquire knowledge from communities of practice without closely following the events and actively forming relationships with other members. In these two learning processes, individual-source relationships are crucial.

The modes and processes of learning are different. In situated learning, the individual learns by attending communities of practice, the participation there is inevitable. The learner does not observe, he or she rather interact with the sources to inquire, contribute, and even discuss when issues come up (Sardana & Scott-Kemmis 2010). The learning process is a mutual interaction between the apprentice and the sources. In other words, all participants in communities of practice are both knowledge sources and learners. Everyone contributes and everyone takes away. It is knowledge input-output for all (Wenger & Snyder 2000). However, in observational learning, the individual learns by analyzing the successful performances or failures of others. The learner may or may not give helpful knowledge to the model (Hamilton 2011). However, the student gets everything from the teacher. Knowledge takes a single traffic route from the model to the learner.

The learner is either involved actively or passively. Situated learning implies that the individual actively acquires, expands, and applies knowledge. If the student decides to learn by means of situated learning, he or she must be ready to immense in practices of communities of practice (Devins, Gold, Johnson & Holden 2005). If communities hold meetings or video conferences or chat through emails, the apprentice should pay attention to such communication forums (Handley, Sturdy, Finchman & Clark 2006). Moreover, the individual must actively contribute to discussions of innovative business ideas and everything else that communities do. Since the membership of communities is free and informal, nobody has an obligation to belong to them. In that case, the extent of an individual’s active participation determines his or her level of knowledge intake. In cases of natural communities of practice, where a person does not necessarily participate, there hardly appear innovative ideas. Observational learning relies on models, who are supposed to educate the learner. The former does not need to participate actively (Bosma, Hessels, Schutjens, Praag & Verheul 2012). It a passive learning process, the student observes the activities, reactions, responsibilities, and methods from a distance (Hoffmann, Junge & Malchow-Moller 2015). The passivity of the learner does not affect the amount and quality of the information.

The acquired knowledge serves different purposes. Observational learning provides the apprentice with a reference point, which is essential for the initial career choice. In most cases, models are parents who have demonstrated high performance in their entrepreneurial careers (Mungai & Velamuri 2009). Therefore, the learner builds his or her career choice on the knowledge of the model’s success. Taking into consideration the entrepreneurial requirements of self-efficacy, learners whose models deliver outstanding performance are confident and aggressively undertake entrepreneurship (Kempster 2009). Smilor 1997 states that entrepreneurs have an inner drive that makes them want to occupy a challenging niche in the market (Smilor 1997). This inner-drive comes from witnessing the success of their models. Often, situated learning spurs innovation that keeps the enterprise competitive, functional, and practical. Participation in communities of practice cannot always give an individual a vision of becoming an entrepreneur. Situated learning functions as a source of innovative ideas, while communities of practice, if professional, are usually think tanks or the force behind an idea (Handley, Sturdy, Finchman & Clark 2006). As the members of the communities of practice meet to interact, they discuss professional challenges, successes, new ventures, and possible risks. This rigorous and aggressive approach to business or projects generates ideas, innovation, which brings change to the enterprise (Handley, Sturdy, Finchman & Clark 2006). After getting an entrepreneurial desire from their model, most entrepreneurs expand their visions with the help of situated learning.

In conclusion, observational and situated learning are very closely related processes. People are social beings, who live by interaction. Learning by means of interaction, either by observation or participation, lies the human nature. There exist differences between the two methods of learning, most of which are structural. In observational learning, there must be a model for a learner to get knowledge from. In situated learning, intentional or default communities of practice serve the educating role. Learning from observation only requires a distant follow-up of the models’ activities, but in situated learning, the extent of participation determines the quality of acquired knowledge. It is apparent that observational learning serves to encourage entrepreneurs to start businesses. Situational learning may also act as an encouragement, but, in most cases, it helps to solve problems in the existing enterprise and accelerate innovation. Therefore, observational and situated learning may be regarded as complementary learning processes. These two methods of learning show that the studying of entrepreneurial skills is a continuous process, and it does not follow a straight path. Since entrepreneurship requires flexibility, learning entrepreneurial skills demands resilience as well. It is mandatory to employ the two methods of learning to be a successful entrepreneur.

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