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Constructivism* Brian Eigelbach Course Date Instructor

Brian EigelbachEDUC 8101: How Adults Learn: Theory and ResearchFebruary , 2013Dr. Marilyn Wells

Professional Learning Community

What is this? Click on this icon for an audio explaining the slide.

The purpose of this presentation is to define and describe the social constructivist theory of learning. Specifically, the Professional Learning Community will be used as an example of the application of Vygotskys social constructivism. A discussion of Piagets cognitive constructivism is included for comparison and to highlight the concepts of adaptation, assimilation and accommodation in learning. The first few slides of this presentation define and describe the Professional Learning Community (PLC). Constructivism will be defined followed by a discussion of the main goals of PLCs as defined by DuFour (2003).. PLCs originally developed from the work of Peter Senge, a systems theorist who worked with learning organizations(Feger & Arruda, 2008). It is beyond the scope of this presentation to relate a detailed account of Senges work. However, some mention of the central themes of his work is important and will be discussed as they relate to constructivist theory. This will occur later in the presentation. A review of constructivist theory follows the description of PLCs. PLCs are then appraised in terms of constructivist theory. The last portion of the presentation provides a review and links the purpose and goals of The Professional Learning Community with constructivist thought. The presentation will conclude with suggestions for further application of PLCs.

The objectives of the presentation are:Participants will be able to describe a Professional Learning CommunityParticipants will be able to describe constructivismParticipants will be able to summarize the purpose and goals of a Professional Learning Community. Participants will be able to state at lest 3 characteristics of PLCs and how they demonstrate constructivist theory.

Re record1The goal of a Professional Learning Community is to create a collaborative culture in the school focused on learning in order to increase student achievement .

(Feger & Arruda, 2008; Muirhead, 2009; Lieberman & Miller, 2011)

Professional Learning Community

The Professional Learning Community (PLC) is a community of practice that borrows from Peter Senges work on learning organizations (Hord, 2003) as mentioned earlier. PLCs also have roots in the Community of Practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). (See the handout for more info about Communities of Practice).

Professional Learning Communities are based on the idea that educators can learn from each other through collaborative effort promoting the growth and development of the professional group and individual members. PLCs encourage members to examine their practice, reflect together on what works and what does not, and try out new strategies. Practices that define a PLC include active participation of the members, a shared vision, and a supportive culture that allows the community to work together to identify and resolve issues (Feger & Arruda, 2008). All of this is for the construction and sharing of new knowledge within the professional group. (Lieberman & Miller, 2011) Of course the goal and measureable result of the PLC is improved student achievement.

The American Federation of Teachers (Muirhead, 2009) and the National Staff Development Council (Feger & Arruda, 2008) encourage Professional Learning Communities as a strategy for improving education.

2The focus is on learningThere is a Collaborative culturePLCs are Results focused

The Big Ideas of Professional Learning Organizations.

DuFour (2003) identified three Big Ideas that guide the work of Professional Learning Communities, they are:

A focus on learning Learning is found in the routine practices of the school according to DuFour. This is powerful when teachers meet in grouped teams and are allowed the time to focus on student achievement. A Collaborative culture DuFour feels that the work of a collaborative culture is best demonstrated through measureable, result oriented goals. Professional Learning Communities are results focused As mentioned previously, student achievement should be the measure of the success of the PLC.

The one theme that seems to flow through the literature re: Professional Learning Communities is collaboration (DuFour, 2003 ; Hord, 2003, Liebernam & Miller, 2011).

There are two main theories that ground PLCs, Situated Theory and Social Constructivist Theory. We will look at these two theories in the next set of slides. 3Wengers theory of Situated learning.

VygotskysSocial Constructivism

Theories that ground Professional Learning Communities

Most of the literature related to PLCs is grounded in social learning theory. One social learning theory is the Situated Theory of Lave & Wenger (1991) that is frequently cited as a grounding theory and this will be discussed in more detail in the next slide. Situated Theory was developed from Vygotskys theory of social constructivism. Social constructivism examines how an individual assimilates ideas in turn transforms those ideas into things (stories, skills, practices, and etc.) that can be shared in a group. This in turn leads to the development of a culture of professional learning. (Feger & Arruda, 2008).

In other words, knowledge that is created/changed/transformed into practice that is then shared with group members is the starting place for a Professional Learning Community. Social constructivism will be explored in more detail in the slide following Situated Theory.

4Situated theory analyzes learning and the social situation in which it occurs.Situated Theory

Lave & Wegner (1991) developed a theory of learning constructed from apprenticeship models called situated theory. The apprenticeship model still exists today in professions such as plumbing and electrical work where an apprentice learns from an experienced master. Situated theory analyzes learning and the social situations in which it occurs. Professional Learning Communities are an example of a social situation in which learning occurs. Lave & Wegner (1991) are not that concerned with the cognitive process of learning. They focus more on learning as social co-participation. The context in which learning occurs is of prime importance to Lave & Wenger. The learner does not get a bunch of book sense that can be later applied. Rather the learner gains the skills required by actual hands on work under the watchful eye of a more skilled person (apprenticeship). It is easy to see how this can be applied in the Professional Learning Community. One of the goals of the PLC is to increase the knowledge of the group by sharing of information. The information has to be storable or an artifact which is also a requirement In Vygotskys social constructivism (Feger & Arruda, 2008). As mentioned earlier, Situated theory developed from constructivist theory which will be described next.

5CONSTRUCTIVISMConstructivism is a theory of learning in which the learner creates knowledge.

Constructivism is an epistemology. That means that constructivism is a study of the nature of knowledge or how it is that we come to know what we know. (Kretchmar, 2008). Constructivisms epistemological stance is that people create knowledge and meaning through their interactions with the environment and each other (Kim, 2001).

There are two modes of epistemological thought. One is that the external world is a reality that exists independently of us and our knowledge is an approximation of that reality. In other words, reality is our best guess. The other camp says that knowledge does not exist until the individual constructs it from their experiences in the world (Kretchmar, 2008). In other words, reality is our best guess based on our interactions with the world. This presentation is concerned with the latter definition. People create their own realities (Kim, 2001). So two people may look at the same thing but not see it in the same way. The fact that people see the same thing differently is behind the dynamic of contention.

What is important and often overlooked is how knowledge and meaning is actually created in constructivist theory. For new knowledge to be constructed there has to be a cognitive conflict (Kretchmar, 2008) or contention (Graham, 2007). Contention is disagreement. We will look at this a little more closely later in the presentation.

There are two main branches of constructivism, Piaget's cognitive constructivism and Vygotsky's social constructivism. We will look at each in the next two slides and a brief example of constructivism will follow.

6Piagets Cognitive Constructivism

Piaget contributed the concepts of assimilation and accommodation to learning.

Piaget is credited with the original work in constructivism. His is more of a developmental theory than theory of learning. Piaget was a biologist and introduced the concept of adaptation into learning. Basically he showed that knowledge is not necessarily reflective (the result of) of some external reality but is true to that reality as long as it is adaptive....or helpful in accomplishing a task or goal (Kretchmar, 2008). Now, we get to the idea of cognitive conflict mentioned earlier.

In order for new knowledge to be constructed there has to be a cognitive conflict or area of contention (disagreement). This contention of disagreement can occur internally (cognitive dissonance) or externally (debate, discussion). Piaget explained the process of knowledge creation via his concepts of assimilation and accommodation. Lea