Contextualized Learning: Teaching made highly effective! (2023)

There’s no doubt about it: Contextualizing can dramatically boost teaching and learning outcomes! While lately, there has been an increased appreciation of the use of contextualized learning activities in adult education, the fact is that the concept itself is not novel.

Even in our everyday lives, we appreciate the effects of contextualization – behaving in one way in one situation, while using another set of behaviors in a different context – although we may not be actively conscious of it.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the contextual knowledge definition, so that we can better understand how it can be leveraged in corporate teaching and learning settings.

Understanding contextualized learning

Anyone who works in a team will understand the social stigma associated with people whispering when they are in a group setting. It’s often considered rude and impolite. However, when considered in another context – of say, a hospital, or a gathering like a funeral – then whispering may be deemed acceptable.

Contextualized teaching and learning builds upon a similar concept of putting academic activities into perspective to achieve thebest teaching and learning outcomes.

So, what exactly are contextualized learning activities, and how do they impact learning outcomes?

Researchers and academics Berns, Robert G. and Erickson, Patricia M. published a paper that defines contextualized learning as a practice that endeavors to link theoretical constructs that are taught during learning, to practical, real-world context.

The underlying theme behind the use of contextual learning activities is simple. It recognizes that by embedding instructions in contexts that adult learners are familiar with, learners more readily understand and assimilate those instructions.

By embedding instructions in familiar contexts, learners are more likely to learn

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This realization is grounded in constructionist learning theory, which holds that people learn better when encouraged to construct relevance between the instructions they receive, and interpretations of those instructions within the context of their own environments.

Why use a contextual learning approach?

For any teaching and learning approach to be adopted as an acceptable pedagogy, it must demonstrate that its core principles are in keeping with the broader body of pedagogical findings. Contextualized teaching and learning approaches have been proven to be grounded in:

1) Pedagogical theory: Contextual learning activities are aligned with the mainstream pedagogical body of knowledge, including Motivation Theories,Social Learning Theories, Problem-centered Learning and modern psychological and physiological research around how human brains learn.

2) “Real world” application: Rather than teach for the abstract or theoretical world, using contextual learning strategies helps companies prepare their employees to take on real-world challenges that their staff faces in the workplace.

3) Specificity: Because the contextual learning approach to training a workforce relies on “context”, trainers can offer content built to deal with company-specific context in mind.

4) Speed: By focusing on the “big picture first” (more on this later), this training approach trains employees much quicker than the traditional “crawl…toddle…walk…run” approach.

While other training approaches might also work well, the inclusion of contextual learning examples as part of corporate trainingwill help produce a workforce that’s more adept at real-world problem solving.

Contextual learning strategies in practice

The following best practices should be considered when designing your contextualized approach to learning and training your corporate staff:

1) Design with the most relevant approach in mind

There are a number of contextual learning strategies that you can implement, including Knowledge-based, Skills-based and cognitive approaches. Make sure that you choose the strategy that’s most appropriate to the learning you wish to impart to your audience.

For example, while a skills-based approach might work in one context, in another it might ignore the practical application required to effectively transfer knowledge regarding a specific learning objective.

2) Design for effectiveness

For a contextualized approach to learning to be effective, it’s not sufficient to just impart the knowledge or skills required to achieve a learning objective. You need to design activities that also teach the procedurs, processes and discipline on how and when to apply those skills and that knowledge in a given context.

3) Design for transference

Often, when an employee moves from one position to another (horizontally, laterally or even externally, to another organization), they need to be able to transfer their skills, knowledge and experiences to that new environment.

A research-based publication of the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education National Research Council found that much greater transfer of knowledge takes place when information is organized in a conceptual framework. When that happens, learners were found to be more adept at applying what they learned to newer situations in the workplace.

Therefore, it is important that you design your contextualized learning activities in a way that learners are able to adapt and transfer them to newer contexts, as opposed to relating them to just one specific context.

4) Design with social consciousness

The typical workforce today is highly multicultural, with employees coming from different ethnicities, cultural and social backgrounds. Therefore, it is imperative that when pulling together contextualized learning activities as part of a course, you also factor in those social “nuances”.

In some cultures, for instance, it may not be appropriate for male and female colleagues to participate in two-person activities. As a result, learners with specific cultural backgrounds might be resistant to absorbing new information/skills using a contextual learning approach that challenges their ingrained social norms.

In such a situation, slightly changing the makeup of the learning team, perhaps into a small group configuration (as opposed to one male and one female), might create a better context for learning to be transferred more effectively.

5) Design iteratively

Compared to traditional approaches, contextual learning involves a slightly different approach to designing learning activities. You need to be more iterative indesigning learning content, by starting with an immediate focus on broad contextualized learning activities that learners need to perform as part of their daily work routine first.

You can then build supporting contextual learning activities that focus on the basic skills and knowledge required to effectively carry out those broad activities. This approach is repeated in several iterations, enabling learners to get a better appreciation of the “big picture” first; and therefore subsequently grasp the “smaller” nuances that make up that broader view.

6) Design for groups

The most successful contextual learning strategies are those that are designed with groups of learners in mind– as opposed to focusing on individual learners. That’s because in the real world, learners must interact with fellow workers, supervisors, management teams, and a host of other individuals and groups.

By designing your contextual learning activities with groups of interdependent learners in mind, you stand a better chance that learning will mimic the real world where these individuals will subsequently interact. In designing group learning, you’ll also leverage the power of individuals learning from other individuals – something that routinely occurs in the workforce today.

7) Design assessments appropriately

When designing your contextualized approach to learning, you should evaluate learners based on authentic assessments, instead of measuring their command of remembering or blindly performing specific activities.

Jon Mueller, Professor of Psychology, defines authentic assessment as assessments where learners are required to show their command of what they learned, by applying that knowledge and those skills to real-world tasks.

Assessing the outcomes of contextualized learning activities based on authentic assessment will ensure that transfer of learning has actually occurred and that employees are well equipped to put the skills and knowledge learned to effective use in their workplaces.

The takeaways

Contextualized learning is real, and it works! By including contextualized learning activities in your corporate training initiatives, you’ll not only produce workforce-ready teams more quickly but will also ensure that your teams absorb the information being taught more effectively.

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What is the importance of contextualized teaching and learning? ›

Contextualized teaching and learning (CTL) helps students gain a deeper understanding of subject matter by relating material to meaningful situations that students encounter in real life.

What is contextualized teaching learning? ›

CTL is a group of instructional strategies designed to link the learning of basic skills, and academic or occupational content by focusing teaching and learning directly on concrete applications in a specific context that is of interest to the student.

What are the strengths of contextual learning? ›

It teaches students take control over their learning helps them to become independent learners. It presents teaching in students' real-world experience. It helps students to learn from each other and together in a team. Conclusion using contextual learning in the classroom does not involve new tools.

What is the importance of contextualized learning program? ›

Contextual learning motivates and encourages the learners to introspect and explore their talent and learning. They will able to express themselves with precision and confidence and will thus achieve high standards in schools and universities.

What is the main objective of contextual teaching and learning promotes? ›

Incorporating the principals of contextual teaching helps to promote authentic learning and increases students' success by allowing them to make connections as they construct knowledge.

What is the purpose of contextualized learning materials? ›

Contextualized instructional materials or supplementary learning materials through the use of technology enable the learners to pave the way the mastery of the different competencies which are very essential for education and learning.

What is the goal of contextualization of the learning process? ›

Contextualized instruction links the learning of foundational skills with academic or occupational content by focusing teaching and learning squarely on concrete applications in a specific context that is of interest to the student.

What is an example of contextualized learning? ›

Contextualising learning in this way allows a more seamless transition from higher education to the world of work. For example, conducting and designing experiments with the scientific method and enquiry helps science students think critically about assumptions of knowledge that are pervasive in society.

What is benefit of contextualization? ›

Contextualization is defined as employing the items of the language in a meaningful and relevant context. This helps the learners to acquire new skills and knowledge. It also develops their abilities and attitudes. Learners should be motivated to learn and to take part in the learning process.

What are the characteristics of contextual teaching and learning? ›

Contextual learning has the following characteristics:
  • emphasizing problem solving.
  • recognizing that teaching and learning need to occur in multiple contexts.
  • assisting students in learning how to monitor their learning and thereby become self-regulated learners.
  • anchoring teaching in the diverse life context of students.

What is contextual learning strategies? ›

A contextual approach: Encourages design of learning environments that use multiple teaching modalities and incorporate different forms of learning experiences. Allows learners to discover meaningful relationships between abstract ideas and real-world applications.

What is contextual learning strategy? ›

The contextual learning strategy is a student-centered learning strategy that emphasis on the development of higher order thinking and the way they must learn.

What is the point of contextualization? ›

When students contextualize, they are situating ideas, arguments, or practices in a larger context (e.g., a historical context, a critical context, a cultural context) in order to call their audience's attention to that context.

How can teachers use contextual teaching? ›

Teachers can also motivate a need for understanding the concepts by assigning realistic and relevant exercises. Relating and experiencing are strategies for developing insight, felt meaning, and understanding. Applying is a contextual teaching and learning strategy that develops a deeper sense of meaning.

How do teachers use contextual teaching and learning? ›

CTL is a learning concept that helps teachers connect between the material taught to the real-world situations of learners and encourages learners to make connections between their knowledge and application in their daily lives, involving the seven main components of learning the main effective learning, that is ...

How school contextual factors influence effective teaching and learning? ›

Contextual factors are factors that influence a decision. Since contextual factors such as social interactions, culture, society, Technology, are assets to learning. Teachers must help our students understand what is expected of them despite all these factors.

What is the impact of contextualized curriculum in the learning outcomes among learners? ›

Effects of the Contextualized Learning Materials

Contextualization of a course's content and concepts can improve student motivation, learning, and persistence. The knowledge has been shown that instruction with contextualized content can activate learners' prior knowledge and promote more effective problem solving.

What is contextualization method of teaching? ›

Contextualized basic skills instruction involves the teaching of academic skills against a backdrop of specific subject matter to which such skills need to be applied, and is taught by reading, writing, and math instructors. The primary instructional objective is to teach academic skills rather than the subject matter.

What is a good example of contextualization? ›

For example, if a document is a map that shows slavery growing dramatically from 1820 to 1860, a student might point out that this growth can be explained in the context of the development of the cotton gin, which made the production of cotton much more profitable and let to the spread of slavery in the Deep South.

What does it mean to contextualize lesson? ›

Contextualized instruction, as it suggests, refers to teaching students the content in a context, i.e., embedding the concepts in meaningful activities and in a scenario that makes sense to the students to enhance their understanding and to make the concepts more relatable.

What are the 7 elements of the contextual teaching and learning model? ›

There are seven main components of CTL, they are: Constructivism, Inquiry, Questioning, Learning community, Modeling, reflections, and authentic assessment.

What are examples of contextual factors in teaching? ›

In your discussion, include the following:
  • Community, district and school factors. Address geographic location, community and school population socio-economic profile and race/ethnicity. ...
  • Classroom factors. ...
  • Student characteristics. ...
  • Instructional implications.

What are the main elements of the contextual approach? ›

The contextual approach considered the relationship between individuals and their physical, cognitive, and social worlds. They also examine socio-cultural and environmental influences on development.

What are the benefits of contextualization in education? ›

Contextualized Teaching and Learning
  • Makes learning relevant.
  • Engages and motivates hard-to-reach students.
  • Increases learner confidence & enthusiasm.
  • Enhances interest in long-term goals & education.

What is the meaning and importance of contextualization and localization in teaching and learning process? ›

The concept of localization and contextualization falls on the idea that students learned best when experienced in the classroom have meanings and relevance in their lives. Things students do and associated with them are the learning that lasts forever.

What is the benefit of Contextualisation? ›

It can help students develop their professional identity and efficacy as a future member of a particular profession or industry. Contextualisation also introduces students to other perspectives of other peers and disciplines and how those align with their own and in their unique contexts.

What is the effect of contextualization? ›

Contextualization of a course's content and concepts can improve student motivation, learning, and persistence.

What is the importance of contextualization in teaching literacy? ›

The high literacy goals of schools are best achieved in everyday, culturally meaningful contexts. This contextualization utilizes students' funds of knowledge and skills as a foundation for new knowledge. This approach fosters pride and confidence as well as greater school achievement.

What does it mean to contextualize and how does it help in understanding history? ›

Historical contextualization is the ability to situate a historical phenomenon or person in a temporal, spatial, and social context to describe, explain, compare, or evaluate it (Van Boxtel and Van Drie 2012).


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