Citation:  Brown, A. L., Ash, D., Rutherford, M., Nakagawa, K., Gordon, A., & Campione, J. C. (1993). Distributed expertise in the classroom. In G. Salomon (Ed.), Distributed cognitions: Psychological and educational considerations (pp. 188-228). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Deborah (Feb. 26, 2009)

What is learned and how?  Fifth-7th graders are taught how to learn (this is the authors' proposed function of schooling) using instructional strategies that are built from theories such as the ZPD, and distributed/situation cognition.  The authors used a design experiment to test these strategies in a low-performing school with a diverse student population.

What is distributed?  Knowledge and expertise about biology was distributed among members of the class.

How are the distributions mediated?  Distributions are mediated via "expert" students, computer programs and email, graduate students, and zoos and museums that agreed to participate.  They use a harvest metaphor.  Teachers seed the environment with ideas and concepts that they value, and then harvest those that “take” or grow in the environment.  Students and teachers then appropriate (not internalize) vocab. ideas, methods, that are part of the shared discourse…transform these ideas via personal interpretation. 

“Meaning is negotiated and renegotiated by members of the community”

“Over time, the community of learners adopts a common voice and common knowledge base, a shared system of meaning, beliefs, and activity that is a often implicit as it is explicit”

Features of the classroom  (student centered)

        Fostering the ethos that will allow for collaborative learning

                1.  atmosphere of individual responsibility coupled with communal sharing

                2.  respect

                3.  community of discourse—constructive discussion, questioning, and criticism are the norm.

                4.  ritual—repetitive activities helps with transitions 

    Instructional Strategies

            1. reciprocal teaching—questioning, clarifying, summarizing, predicting (in order to arrive at consensus)

                                        students read a text, the leader asks a question and then summarizes the gist  of the answers.  The group goes back to the reading to clarify “problems” of interpretation.  


             2. jigsaw—each student becomes an expert by working with a group that is focused on one aspect of science topic, then is put into a group where she is the only expert.  


             3.  Research cycle—10 weeks, prior knowledge assessment, essential  questions/theme. Groups of students form research groups and the class is brought together occasionally to remind them that each of their pieces forms the whole puzzle.  Groups move back and  forth in a jigsaw manner  to update classmates using reciprocal techniques

                  Purposeful creation of expert students who are responsible for teaching/sharing with others and the fostering of “majoring”  students  choose what they want to become experts in

                  Dynamic Assessment---ZPD principle’s used in this…help given, aimed at problems solving..used to gage future learning/teaching strategies.

                The gathering and use of various resources where students can find information (computer Quickmail, grad-students, network of zoo’s and museums that have agreed to help)

Other important points?

Interesting explanations/illustrations of distributed cognition mentioned in article:

The point is not so much that arrangements of knowledge in the head correspond in a complicated way to the world outside the head, but that they are socially organized in such a fashion as to be indivisible.  “Cognition” observed in everyday practice is distributed---stretched over, not divided among---mind, body, activity and culturally organized settings (which include other actors) Lave (1988)

Conceiving of learning in terms of participation focuses attention on ways in which it is an evolving, continuously renewed set of relations….Participation….can be neither fully internalized as knowledge structures nor fully externalized as instrumental artifacts or overarching activity structures.  Participation is always based on situated negotiation and renegotiation of meaning in the world.  This implies that understanding and experience are in constant interaction---indeed, are mutually constitutive. Lave and Wenger (1991)