Distributed and Situated Cognition


Coordinator: Sanjay Chandrasekharan

Credits: 4

Duration: 15 weeks; class starts Thursday 19 January 2012 Day/Time: Monday and Thursday, 10 to 12 AM (Saturday classes will make up for 3 holidays.)


This course will explore two emerging theoretical perspectives on the nature of cognition (distributed cognition, situated cognition), empirical evidence for these approaches, and some cognitive and brain mechanisms that support these perspectives. The primary objective of the course is to provoke alternate ways of thinking about cognition, and then examining what implications these alternate models of cognition could have on learning and education. A second objective will be gaining familiarity with the empirical methods and argument structures used in the study of cognition, particularly experiments reported in recent literature.

Reading Material

The course requires significant reading (60-100 pages a week; ~50 papers). The readings will be a mix of popular articles and philosophical, experimental and modeling papers. Some papers will be technical, but the discussion will focus on theoretical issues rather than technical details. The title for each week in the course plan below indicates the general gist of the articles.


All readings are available (pdf) from the link below. Each week's readings are in a separate folder, with 4 (rarely 5) core readings. These are given numbers 1 to 4-5, at the end of the filename. The key points would be easier to grasp if the papers are read in this order. This ordering is also provided in the course plan below. Some folders have a subfolder named “Extra”. This contains a few other papers to pursue if the topic is found interesting. Week 15 folder has some assorted papers.



Class structure

The class will be participant-driven, with two participants summarising each week's readings, and then asking some questions to kick start the discussion. All class participants have to do this summary presentation once during the course. All participants have to turn in a “comments and queries” document every week, focusing on two or more readings. The second class of every week, in part or full, will focus on the educational implications of the week's readings.


Students taking the course for credit will be graded on the basis of a final paper as well as the comments and queries. The paper should preferably connect the student's interest in education with one of the topics covered in the course.

Course Coordinator: