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Side by Side: Learning by Observing and Pitching In



Abstract This article examines cultural practices that support informal learning as children observe and pitch in with everyday activities that are integrated into family and community life. We discuss the social and cultural grounding of this learning tradition, drawing on research carried out in different parts of the world during more than 60 years. Children learn by watching, listening, and attending, often with great concentration, by taking purposeful initiative, and by contributing and collaborating. We try to correct the frequent misconception that this way of learning is essentially a nonverbal process by showing that speech is commonly used, but judiciously, in support of efficient communication rather than for “lessons.” This learning tradition is not in opposition to school learning; children with schooling experience learn this way when they belong and experience community. [informal learning, cultural practices, socialization, observation, family and community learning]