I actually read this paper last week, but somehow I never got around to taking high-level notes, nor of posting in this group. I'm feeling a bit stretched, so I'll just post the thing that was churning around in my head as I was walking home from the subway (I read the paper on the subway) last week - I would like to check out some of the other links and points made in this conversation when I get some more headspace.
Basically the thing that kept frustrating me about this paper, and about a lot of papers I've read in education and learning sciences, is the lack of distinguishing between different kinds of learning and knowledge. Learning is a word that covers an incredibly diverse set of actions, Hoadley notes the following examples here :
learning as changed behavior
changed mental representations
changed social practices
and he also notes that learning isn't always positive for education, for example he cites "learned helplessness", or even "learning from criminals in prison".
But even just thinking about our own day-to-day lives, learning to drive a car, learning to build websites in Ruby, learning French, learning calculus, learning about the French revolution, learning to be a better sales manager through mentorship and experience, learning wilderness survival, learning to write academic articles - these are all very different things. I often see articles bombastically announce that "all learning is social", "learning can only happen in this way" etc, without discussing at all what kind of learning we are talking about, which doesn't make much sense to me.
The article is talking about medical students, and I can easily believe that much of what they learn needs to be very situated. However, if I am learning about the history of the Second World War, what would it mean for that knowledge to be "situated"? What would "transfer" mean? (That I am able to apply historiographical principles to other historical events, or come up with historical parallels etc?)
I would love to read articles were people are actually looking at the various requirements and properties of different subject areas and learning settings... One common challenge is that so much of the computer-supported collaborative learning research is about math and science for K12 students, which I think works quite differently to for example learning about history. (of course in this context, the discussions above about the role of memory etc are very interesting, it's something I'd love to get more into).
I'm going to close here, but here's a short rant about this from en e-mail I sent to my supervisor - I'd love to do a bit more thinking about this and develop it into something longer.
I think there is something fundamentally different about the knowledge structure in fields like hard science, and humanities/social sciences... (this isn't a revolutionary insight, I know)... a lot of the literature in learning physics etc, and a lot of what we do, looks at "conceptual change", modifying people's internal models of the world, etc... When you finally understand how matter works, it's not very important to you where you read it, which sources you consulted etc... They are just guides - if you can figure it out yourself from first principles or experimentation - great! Whereas in sociology, you need to keep multiple models in your head at the same time. You need to understand that Max Weber had one way of explaining capitalist societies, and Adam Smith a second, and Marx a third. AND you need to understand how the three are related, and in what historical context those ideas surfaces... You need to keep all of this in your mind + a lot more, to be considered even a base-line "educated person"... I wonder if this difference is why I am so interested in systems that interact with source material (taking notes, highlighting, reorganizing notes, creating time lines and concept maps, organizing ideas etc)...