Mark Needham

Thoughts on Software Development

Learning and Situated cognition

with 3 comments

Sumeet recently blogged about the new style ThoughtWorks University that he and the other trainers have introduced and although I only got to see it in action for a few days it seemed clear to me that it was an improvement on the original version.

The questions being asked, discussions being had and situations that were coming up were pretty much the same as I’ve seen on any software project that I’ve worked on.

One particularly interesting thing which came up a few times was that there was a ‘them vs us’ feeling between the analysts and developers.

This is certainly an example of a situation which didn’t come up on the project when I participated in ThoughtWorks University 4 years ago where we only had a one week simulation.

It is however a situation that does come up and on the projects I’ve worked on it certainly can feel like you’re fighting the analysts. They’re trying to balance the wishes of the client as well as those of the developers and to developers it can often seem that the analyst is just being difficult for the sake of it.

The cool thing was that the grads then came up with different potential solutions to this problem and they were pretty much the same solutions that we’ve used on projects I’ve worked on.

While discussing a different topic with Dave Cameron he pointed me to the Wikipedia entry for ‘situated cognition‘ which “posits that knowing is inseparable from doing by arguing that all knowledge is situated in activity bound to social, cultural and physical contexts“.

The following quotes seem to explain why, in my experience at least, I learn way more effectively when working with colleagues on projects than I could ever do on an out of context training course:

Knowing emerges as individuals develop intentions through goal-directed activities within cultural contexts which may in turn have larger goals and claims of truth.

Knowing is expressed in the agent’s ability to act as an increasingly competent participant in a community of practice.

Learning must involve more than the transmission of knowledge but must instead encourage the expression of effectivities and the development of attention and intention that reflect real life learning processes

I think this new style TWU gives grads an even better start to their ThoughtWorks lives and I hope to take part as a trainer for one of the terms later in the year.

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Written by Mark Needham

August 10th, 2010 at 3:26 am