Maximizing Student Learning through Social Constructivist Approach

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ESS 712

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Maximizing Student Learning through Social Constructivist ApproachBy. Ulfa Rahmi 211077007

Table of ContentsIntroduction ............................................................................................................................................ 1 Defining Social constructivism ................................................................................................................ 1 Benefit of social constructivism in science classes ................................................................................. 2 Example of social-constructivism strategy ............................................................................................. 4 Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................... 5 Reference ................................................................................................................................................ 6

Maximizing Student Learning through Social Constructivist ApproachIntroductionNowadays, the growing demand on how to make students scientifically literate is becoming more and more important. One of the main reasons why humans need to be scientifically literate is to improve understanding and awareness of their surroundings and develop critical thinking skills on the phenomena in the world so that they could make a wise decision for their health and environment. Due to this demand, teachers, as an active agent, need to develop a method that could promote a better science learning in which students could really grasp the science knowledge. Based on the newest perspectives, a social constructivism, mentioned that students are learning best when they are in a social situation (Cobb, 1994). Thus, teachers have to be able to promote a classroom community in which students could construct their knowledge. This paper will discuss how the social constructivist approach might benefit students in learning science. Moreover the classroom teaching strategy will be given as an example of the social constructivist approach.

Defining Social constructivismThere are two major trends that have risen in the last three decades. The first is the view that knowledge is the result of mental activities which is generally known as constructivism. In other words, students understand the knowledge by actively constructing their own ways of knowing by adapting new information with their existing knowledge (Bereiter, 1994; Cobb, 1994; North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, n.d.). The constructivist approach is evolved from Piaget which focuses on cognitive processes. Since it analyzes the process of ones thinking, this approach involves a conceptual process which is commonly known as conceptual change (Cobb, 1994). Conceptual change is denoted as a process of replacing the old concepts to the intended knowledge. It is designed to convince the students that some situations that they understand are actually misunderstood. In a conceptual change, students are responsible in constructing their own understanding and itUlfa Rahmi Page 1

is believed that the dissatisfaction with their prior knowledge is the trigger to a conceptual change. Hence, if the alternative conception which is intelligible, plausible and fruitful is available, accommodation of the new conception might occur (Duit & Treagust, 2003). However, the more contemporary perspective on learning would disagree with this view. They argue that learning not only involves individual cognition but also social processes. As it argues that knowledge is socially constructed, it leads to the second view, social constructivism. In this perspective, the knowledge and understanding are constructed when a person engages socially in activities and conversation about shared problems or tasks (Driver, Asoko, Leach, Mortimer, Scott, 1994). A social constructivist perspective which is also known as socio-cultural is derived from Vygotskys theory. He stated that Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development (Learning Theories Knowledgebase, 2011). He also emphasized that learning could occurs under adult guidance or peers with more knowledgeable in information which is known as zone of proximal development (Cobb, 1994). In science classrooms, socio-cultural implies a form of learning and teaching situation in which students are fully engaged and find the learning process meaningful for them. By having this form of situation, students have opportunities to participate in constructing their knowledge. Of course this will not be succeeded unless teachers could build a classroom culture that could promote critical and productive inquiries (Beck & Kosnik, 2006). Tytler (draft in press) mentioned that in order to have quality learning, teachers need to support the students by giving them activities and creating an atmosphere where students could interact with their peers and teachers to challenge their thinking in seeking the evidence. This situation is in line with the social constructivism since interaction could enhance students learning and understanding, therefore students could be scientifically literate. Moreover, actually, the social constructivist approach is also implemented in science practice where the scientific knowledge is usually constructed and communicated through the community or institution of science (Driver et.al, 1994).

Benefit of social constructivism in science classesAs we already know that learning will occur better if only students are exposed in personal and social construction, teachers should start to shift the way they teach from traditionalUlfa Rahmi Page 2

approachtransmissive- to contemporary approach which is more constructivist. Students are expected to have an active role in learning. The role of the teachers and the students are then shifted. Here, teachers should work together with the students and act as a facilitator to making meaning in students learning. Therefore learning becomes a reciprocal experience between teachers and students (Learning Theories Knowledgebase, 2011). A socio-cultural learning which involves a lot of classroom interaction might act as instantiation of the schooling in which practice culturally structured. Further, in making sense of the knowledge, students are appropriating the teachers explanation and contribution whereas in the constructivist approach, students will employ the term accommodation and mutual adaptation (Cobb, 1994:15). In using a socio-cultural approach, learning is focused on the types of social engagement that obviously could enable learners to participate in the activities of the expert (Cobb, 1994). In a classroom for instance, a group discussion will allow the students to express, generalize and transfer their knowledge which later could influence the low performance students to understand the knowledge. The meaning-making of the students is a dialogic process that involves person in conversation in building the knowledge with a more skilled members scaffolding them (Driver et.al, 1994: 7). As this happens, the low performance students will appropriate the knowledge through their involvement in the activities. Consequently, by applying more group discussion, students could have a stronger foundation for conveying ideas verbally. There is evidence from several studies that argues a discussion has a fundamental role in shaping students ability in testing, synthesizing and building a deeper understanding in learning. In addition, such discussion which in line with a social constructivist approach, could increase students motivation, collaborative skills and the ability of problem solving (Wikipedia, 2011). Another point for fostering social constructivism in a classroom is to make learning more attractive (Beck & Kosnik, 2006). Since it is more student-centered, students might find themselves more involved in the learning situation. This approach also considers a student as a whole person which involves thought, emotion and action. Thus they could express their self throughout the learning process and they could understand the knowledge easily as the appropriating process happen. This situation might not occur if we use a transmissionUlfa Rahmi Page 3

or lecturing style of teaching and perhaps it could lead to boredom. Brophy (2002 cited in Beck & Kosnik, 2006) also mentioned that by having a well class community could have a positive influence in a broadly intended direction. For instance, classroom communityteachers and peers- could give a strong social and emotional support which later could enable the learners to take opportunities to enhance their learning.

Example of social-constructivism strategyTo implement a social constructivist approach, teachers must bear in mind not to use a traditional teaching style such as lecturing. They need to create a classroom community that supports a participatory environment which could increase students opportunity for interaction and conversation with one another to express and discuss their ideas. If teachers succeed to develop this community, not only they success to implement a social constructivist approach but also it could increase students performance in developing their reasoning skills and arguing their ideas in a persuasive and respective ways (Reznitskaya, Anderson & Kuo, 2007 cited in Wikipedia, 2011). Furthermore, a constructivist teacher should be able to develop a learning context in which learners are engaged in interesting activities. Teachers encourage the students and facilitate learning. This does not mean that the teachers only stand and watch how the students explore and discover, they might need to scaffold the students as they solve the problems or tasks, encourage learners to work in groups, and direct them to real life situations. Therefore, teachers, also peers and others community members of students, facilitate cognitive growth of the students mind (Social constructivist theory, n.d.).

Cooperative LearningOne of the teaching strategies in line with Vygotskys theory is cooperative learning. Cooperative learning is a teaching strategy in which the students are put into a small group where each member in the group has a different level of competence. In this strategy, each member of the group is responsible not only for understanding the content being taught but also helping their group mates learn (Cooperative Learning, n.d.). Johnson and Johnson (1986 cited in Steakley, 2008) mentioned, students who are encouraged to learn in a small group would develop a greater critical thinking and haveUlfa Rahmi Page 4

longer students retention in learning than those students who are working alone. Moreover it will enhance students' social skills and encourage student self-esteem. By using the cooperative learning strategy, students will be more productive in solving the problem rather than to be competitive with others (Cooperative learning, n.d.). Gillies (2003 cited in Ferguson-Patrick, 2007:3) stated When children work cooperatively together, they learn to give and receive help, share their ideas and listen to other students perspectives, seek new ways of clarifying differences, resolving problems, and constructing new understandings and knowledge. The result is that students attain higher academic outcomes and are more motivated to achieve than they would be if they worked alone. From the above statement, clearly, we can say that when students work collaboratively, they could achieve a better understanding on the knowledge. The example of class activities that use the cooperative learning framework is think-pairshare. Think-pair-share is a strategy involving a three step collaborative structure. In the first step students are required to think silently about a question given by the teacher. Then in the second step, they are paired up and exchange thoughts. In the last step, each pairs share their responses with pairs or to the entire class (Cooperative learning, n.d.). Another class activity that is currently being used is Jigsaw. Jigsaw is a teaching strategy in which each students in group is given a different topic, then they are doing research with other group who has the same topic and later they coming back to their own group to explain each topic from each member (Wikipedia, 2010). Both of the strategies are reflect the sociocultural perspective where the students are expected to build the knowledge through interaction between peers and also teachers as facilitators.

ConclusionDue to the demand of preparing the students more scientifically literate and making meaning of the knowledge, teachers should shift their perspective from a traditional approach to a constructivist approach. However, since learning not only involves individual cognition but also social processes, teachers therefore should use a social constructivist approach which emphasizes social influence in gaining the knowledge. This approach has proven to be an effective way to enhance students performance as it could increaseUlfa Rahmi Page 5

students cognitive growth as well as their communication skills. The strategy that is commonly used in classroom is a cooperative learning which encourages students to works collaboratively. It is believed this strategy will result a good outcome since students will attain higher academic achievement and are more motivated to reach a good performance.

ReferenceBeck, C & Kosnik, C 2006. Innovations in teacher education: A social constructivist approach, State University of New York Press, New York Bereiter, CP 1994. Constructivism, socioculturalism, and poppers world 3, Educational Researcher, vol. 23, no. 7, pp. 21-23, from American Educational Research association, accessed on 24 January 2011. Cobb, P 1994. Where is the mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspectives on mathematical development, Educational Researcher, vol. 23, no. 7, pp. 13-20, from American Educational Research association, accessed on 24 January 2011. Cooperative learning, n.d. accessed on 24 January http://edtech.kennesaw.edu/intech/cooperativelearning.htm 2011, from

Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Mortimer, E. & Scott, P 1994. Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom, Educational Researcher, vol. 23, no. 7, pp 5-12, from American Educational Research association, accessed on 24 January 2011. Duit, R & Treagust, DF 2003. Conceptual change: a powerful framework for improving science teaching and learning, International Journal of Science Education, vol. 25, no. 6, pp. 671-688, Taylor & Francis Ferguson-Patrick, K 2007. Initial understandings and perceptions of cooperative learning: a case study doctoral project, AARE 2007 Conference in Fremantle, 25-29 November 2007, University of Notre Dame Australia, access on 25 January 2011 from http://www.aare.edu.au/07pap/fer07491.pdf Learning Theories Knowledgebase 2011. Social Development Theory (Vygotsky) at LearningTheories.com, accessed on 25 January 2011 from http://www.learningtheories.com/vygotskys-social-learning-theory.html North Central Regional Educational Laboratory, n.d. Constructivist learning and teaching models, accessed on 24 January 2011 from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/envrnmnt/drugfree/sa3const.htm). Social constructivist theory, n.d. accessed on 24 http://viking.coe.uh.edu/~ichen/ebook/et-it/social.htm January 2011 from

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Steakley, ME 2008. Advantage, disadvantage, and application of constructivism, University of Tennessee at Martin, access on 24 January 2011, from http://www.slideshare.net/mesteakley/advantages-disadvantages-and-applicationsof-constructivism Tytler, R draft, in press. Constructivist and socio cultural views of teaching and learning, The art of teaching science. In G. Venville & V. Dawson (eds), Perth : Allen and Unwin Wikipedia, 2010. Jigsaw teaching technique, access on 25 January 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jigsaw_%28teaching_technique%29 Wikipedia, 2011. Social Constructivism, accessed on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_constructivism 24 January 2011 from

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