EdTech 504 Jigsaw Activity

 Chapter 9: Everyday Expertise Learning Within and Across Formal and Informal Settings Heather Toomey Zimmerman and Philip Bell

What is the everyday expertise framework?

  • People learn within and across multiple dimensions: individual, social, and cultural.  Everyday expertise is considered a social learning theory and incorporates a person’s values, emotions, and background knowledge as well as social, and cultural practices.

How did it come to be?

  • The authors and their research group developed a new framework to analyze everyday expertise in connecting learning from home to school and back again.
  • This initiative was created in response to research that found that people do not act with equal competency across all settings even if the content is the same.  Most often people who are confident and competent in informal everyday settings falter in more formal settings, such as school.

Why is it important?

  • Learners do not act with competency in all settings.

Everyday Expertise Framework in depth: Zimmerman & Bell (2012) state that “The everyday expertise framework builds from social theories of development: sociocultural, ecological models of, and distributed perspectives on thinking and doing” (p.226).  There are 3 analytical planes of the everyday expertise framework:

  1. Individual aspects.  Includes background knowledge, emotional states and personal interests.
  2. Cultural aspects.  Tools available to the individual.  Languages, technologies, dispositions, styles of talking, and physical artifacts. Worldviews, stereotypes and other conceptual elements that broadly permeate societal groups are also considered as cultural tools (p. 226).
  3. Social aspects.  Informal learning environments, interactions with people.  Any social situation whether it includes interacting with other people or not.

All three planes are linked together. One does not take precedence over the other but rather combine and complement each other. A researcher or designer using this everyday expertise perspective should consider that cultural tools, social practices within situated activity systems, and individual attributes are all linked in learning environments (Zimmerman & Bell, 2012, p. 227).

Benefits to using the everyday expertise framework:

  • Elimination of stereotypes based on cultural aspects.
  • Focus on individuals in individualized circumstances.
  • Avoid assumption that all individuals are the same.
  • Ability to build on background knowledge through relevance and scaffolding.

2 examples of how the everyday expertise framework was used for research:

  1. Science museum.  Families used ideas and materials to make meaning from the scientific content presented in exhibits.  Previous knowledge guided the family’s discussion.  The parent’s knowledge also influenced what was of interest to the rest of the family.  The family referenced experiences they had had as a family (outdoor activities and visits to other museums).  The museum signage only accounted for 5% of the information learned for this family, all signage was placed at adult height.  By using the everyday expertise framework, more complex signage was moved to a lower height.
  2. Adolescent youth in an environmental education program.  Youth were told stories about specific people or stereotypes within cultural groups to teach about environmental issues.

Why use the everyday expertise framework in instructional design?

  • Support further research of learning in informal environments
  • To connect learning from informal settings to formal settings.
  • To consider social, cultural, and physical aspects when designing instruction.

Thoughts: By giving learners tools that they are familiar with, they can learn more effectively.  For example, giving a student a typewriter isn’t going to be nearly as effective as giving them access to a PC, something they are familiar with and use daily.

Conclusion:  Who a person is does affect how they can learn.


 Zimmerman, H.T., Bell, P. (2012). Everday expertise: Learning within and across formal and informal settings. Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments [Kindle Edition] (p. 224-241). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from Amazon.com



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