Teacher undertaking CPD

18. Recontextualisation

Key Concept: Recontextualisation

The context of an education or training programme is different from the context of the workplace (for example, a laboratory) - while a workshop is related to the real-life context, they are not the same. For effective vocational learning, the teacher must help the learner to move between these contexts.

This process is called recontextualisation, and the teacher is recontextualising by:

  • Selecting course content
  • Selecting teaching, learning and assessment strategies
  • Relating learning to occupational requirements
  • Organising work experience and relating work-based and college-based learning
  • Maintaining a direct "line of sight to work” whilst meeting the needs of learners.

The learner is recontextualising by:

  • Recognising elements of course content in workplace practices
  • Applying what they learn in college to what they do in the workplace
  • Bringing workplace practice back to the college.

According to David Guile, these activities suggest four key practices of vocational learning:

  • Theoretical thinking – the ability to use technical concepts and procedures
  • Dialogic inquiry – the ability to ask questions of more experienced others
  • Boundary crossing – the ability to operate effectively in both the education and work contexts
  • Resituation – the ability to modify ways of thinking, ask questions and deploy technical skills according to the situation.

The idea of recontextualisation is also used to describe some processes which may be outside the remit of the individual teacher. These processes concern the relationship between the curriculum and broad structures in society – including class, gender and ethnicity. For example, some technical fields are still dominated by male or female learners, and in others certain ethnic groups are under-represented. Also, working-class learners are more likely to choose vocational courses than are other learners. This means that the type of knowledge made available in technical fields, compared with general academic courses and with other vocational areas, can produce indirect discrimination on the basis of class, gender or ethnicity.

In the following video Ron and Kevin discuss recontextualisation, and the animation summarises this concept.


How does this animation help you analyse the teaching that you have seen in the videos?

How might the concept of recontextualisation help you organise your own teaching?


The 2016 report produced by David Guile and his colleagues can be found here:


Continuous Recontextualisation in SET Programme