Contextual Learning

Contextual learning is based on a constructivist theory of teaching and learning in which subject matter is related to real-world situations, allowing students to make connections between knowledge and their own experiences.[1][2] This lesson covers the Absorb - Do - Connect approach to contextual learning, proposed by William Horton.[3]

World ideas
World ideas






  1. Review the Absorb activities listed below. Which type of information source do you prefer? Are there any Absorb activities missing from the list?
  2. Review the Do activities listed below. Which type of knowledge or skill activity provides the best learning experience for you? Are there any Do activities missing from the list?
  3. Review the Connect activities listed below. Which type of activity helps you build the strongest association between your own learning and personal experience? Are there any Connect activities missing from the list?
  4. Review learning materials you've created or are familiar with. Identify the Absorb, Do, and Connect activities included in those materials. Are any of the three activity groups missing or in need of enhancement?

Lesson Summary

  • Absorb activities inform and inspire. They provide crucial information necessary to advance learning. Absorb activities include:[4]
    • Readings
    • Presentations
    • Demonstrations
    • Stories
    • Videos
  • Do activities transform information into knowledge and skills. Do activities include:[5][6]
    • Class discussion
    • Think-pair-share exercises
    • Hands-on activities
    • Lab exercises
    • Formative assessments
    • Games
    • Guided analysis
    • Case studies
    • Collaborative learning projects
  • Connect activities build an association between knowledge, skills and students' real-world experiences, so that they may apply their learning to their own personal home or work environments. Connect activities include:[7][8]
    • Applied research and analysis
    • Personal evaluation through reflective writing
    • Group critique


  1. Provide a variety of Absorb activities to support multiple learning styles. Allow students to choose the learning style or styles that best meet their needs.
  2. Provide a variety of Do activities to support different levels of prior experience and engagement. Allow students to choose from several activities to support a more personalized learning experience.
  3. Require students to engage in one or more Connect activities to solidify the associations between their new knowledge or skills and their own personal home or work environments.

See Also



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