Monday, September 22, 2008

Situated Learning, Legitimate Peripheral Participation, & Families

Yesterday during a a church meeting I got to thinking about situated learning theory and its connections to a lot of the things that Latter-Day Saints believe and practice, particularly with regard to families.  The theories of Situated learning and legitimate peripheral participation suggest that learning occurs as individuals become members of communities of practice and participate in those communities as viable members (although there role will likely be very minimal to begin with).  This allows learning to be contextualized and encourages the application and use of knowledge in authentic environments.  

The speaker I was listening to yesterday focused on families and their role in our spiritual development and I started to see a lot of connections to these theories that we have been discussing in our 520 course.  In families we each have roles, some more substantial (mother/father) and others more "peripheral" (a child who has responsibility to make sure that all of the garbages get taken out the night before trash day).  But, each member of the family contributes to the overall success of the family through their role.  A child learns how to be a member of a family, and ultimately how to be a parent, by being a participating member of a family when they are young--observing, asking questions, chipping in with family work, etc.  As time goes on, they assume more responsibility within the family and may play more of a role in decisions that are made within the family.  Eventually, they leave the home and begin to establish their own community of practice where they enter into the roles of mother or father and begin to apply things learned from their parents/siblings and build on this knowledge by making sense of their own experiences as parents.  

This idea of legitimate peripheral participation, I think, can also be seen on another level.  We as Latter-Day Saints also believe that we have a Heavenly Father and that his greatest desire for us is to become like him and be part of an eternal family.  We become legitimate peripheral participants in this plan or process as we take responsibility for children as parents and help them to grow and develop.  In this process we are learning and, ideally,  becoming more like our eternal father.  There is still much we don't know, but the opportunity to take part in the divine plan provides learning experiences for us that we could not have in any other way.

I am a dad of two weeks, so I guess these things are on my mind much more than they have been in the past.  I just thought it was interesting how the things we are learning in class have implications for so many aspects of our lives, and maybe particularly in our spiritual lives and in our families.

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