School Personnel

SGER: Learning through Observing and Pitching In to Community Activities

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The project is an international research group which aims to advance understanding of how people learn in communities of the Americas where schooling has not been prevalent.

A valuable model of informal learning can be found in many communities where schooling has not been prevalent, such as Indigenous communities of the US, México, and Central America. In such communities, children are often integrated in the activities of their families and communities, and learn by observing and pitching in to the activities around them. Learning by observing and pitching in occur in many other communities, but it seems to be much more common in communities where children are routinely included in the range of community activities.

The goal of the project is to advance understanding of how this way of organizing learning works, focusing on Indigenous-heritage communities in the US, México, and Guatemala. The research focuses on cultural differences in

  • learners' access and contribution to valued activities in families, communities, and schools, and how this is related to schooling and cultural change;
  • the extent of collaborative engagement, with more experienced people guiding and learners taking initiative;
  • keenness of attention as children observe events around them;
  • the use of multiple means of communication, including especially nonverbal conversation based on shared action grounded in the context; and
  • in-context assessment of learners' contributions while assisting their performance.

The grant provides support for 2 annual workshops and several 1- to 3- month fellowships for publication of research by a consortium of 31 researchers who are the primary investigators of this topic. They are an interdisciplinary, international group investigating how learning is organized in communities of the Americas where schooling has not been prevalent. Participants include senior researchers and graduate students primarily from Mexico, Guatemala, and the US, with training in psychology, anthropology, education, sociology, linguistics, and Chicano/Latino studies.


The consortium focuses on populations of Guatemala, Mexico, and the US that are likely to have some connection with Indigenous practices of the Americas, as well as European-American communities.

Research Design: 

The research design for this project is cross sectional, and comparative, and is designed to generate evidence that is descriptive (case study, ethnography, and observation), and associative/correlational (analytic essay, interpretive commentary, and quasi-experimental). The consortium employs multiple methods, integrating qualitative and quantitative approaches to research and analysis. The work includes ethnographic accounts, systematic comparisons in quasi-experimental settings, naturalistic observation, etc. This is also a synthesis project, analyzing secondary sources through research gathered by the consortium members for other purposes. The analyses emphasize graphing data, in addition to narrative accounts and (primarily) descriptive statistics.


The consortium has just begun. However, the participants have all published findings in this area already, except for some of the student participants.

Publications & Presentations: 


Correa-Chávez, M., & Rogoff, B. (in press). Children’s attention to interactions directed to others: Guatemalan Mayan and European-American patterns, Developmental Psychology.

Rogoff, B., Paradise, R., Mejía Arauz, R., Correa-Chávez, M., & Angelillo, C. (2003). Firsthand learning through intent participation. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 175-203.

Rogoff, B., Moore, L., Najafi, B., Dexter, A., Correa-Chávez, M., & Solís, J. (2007). Children’s development of cultural repertoires through participation in everyday routines and practices. In J. E. Grusec & P. D. Hastings (Eds.), Handbook of socialization. (pp. 490-515). NY: Guilford.



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