Constructivist theory

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University of Central Florida. EME 2040. Learning Theories Project.

Text of Constructivist theory


2. THE CONSTRUCTIVIST THEORY Constructivism is based on a type of learning in which the learner forms, or constructs, much of what he or she learns or comprehends (Shelly, Gunter, & Gunter). With regard to schooling, this means that students will construct their own subjective knowledge through the objective activities and assignments that the teacher provides. This theory has four main theorists: Jean Piaget, Jerome Bruner, Lev Vygotsky, and John Dewey. 3. PIAGET In Piagets theory, a childs development precedes their learning abilities. Piaget believed that children were constructing new knowledge as they moved through different cognitive stages, building on what they already knew (Shelly, Gunter, & Gunter). The four stages are sensorimotor (0-2 years), preoperational (2-7 years), concrete operational (7-12 years), and formal operational (12 through adulthood). During these four approximate stages, children go through adaptation. They assimilate and/or accommodate new information into their existing schemas. 4. BRUNER Bruner believes that constructivist learners form their knowledge through active learning and discovery. Advantages of discovery learning: promotes motivation, autonomy, responsibility, independence, and develops creativity and problem solving skills. Disadvantages include: potential misconceptions and cognitive overload. Bruner also supported the spiral curriculum, in which students continuously build upon previous information. 5. VYGOTSKY In Vygotskys theory, a childs learning abilities precede their development. Vygotsky believed that children have a zone of proximal development (ZPD). ZPD is a place within the learning process that requires the help of another more advanced individual in order for the child to learn. According to Vygotsky, the teacher should help students build their knowledge by continually decreasing their involvement as the child reaches the end of ZPD. He called this process scaffolding. 6. DEWEY Like the aforementioned theorists, Dewey believed that learning should expand and build upon the experiences of learners (Shelly, Gunter, & Gunter). Dewey put particular emphasis on experience. He also believed that education was a social process and should involve some collaborative learning. 7. KEY POINTS The learner is not a blank slate. Constructivist teaching involves constructing knowledge rather than simply acquiring it. A misconception of constructivism is that the instructor should never tell students anything directly. This is not true. No matter how one is taught they can still develop their own understanding from past experiences or knowledge. 8. IN THE CLASSROOM: TEACHERS Using the constructivist theory in the classroom involves providing your students with many different activities from which they can actively construct their knowledge. Teachers should act as facilitators of learning rather than lecturers. They should encourage students to ask questions and engage them in discussion. To incorporate technology into constructive learning teachers should allow students to use technology to enhance their exploration and understanding of concepts. An example of such technology use could be allowing students to use the internet to research something for a project. This allows students to find new information on a topic and build upon their previous knowledge. 9. IN THE CLASSROOM: STUDENTS Constructivist learners are active learners so students must be just that. For students to be constructivist learners they must have an active interest in their learning. This means that students must participate in activities, ask questions, have discussions with classmates, and discover new concepts to create their own understanding of material. All of the activities above point toward the Socratic method of learning, which is a method supported by constructivists. Students can use technology in order to engage in discovery learning. By using their previous knowledge and experiences students may discover new information when using a word processor, the internet, a power-point program, or even playing a game. 10. Traditional Classroom Constructivist Classroom 11. MY CLASSROOM I have always favored the constructivist approach of teaching and I do plan to use a lot of the components in my own classroom. I firmly believe that students learn better when they construct their own understanding of information rather than listening to a teacher lecture about the only way that something can be right or wrong. However, I do believe that when using this approach the teacher must be vigilant of how the students are encoding the information and make sure to clear up any misinformation or misconceptions the student may have discovered. One way I plan on implementing the constructivist approach in my future classroom is through the use of station learning. During a portion of the day students will engage in stations. Small groups of students will rotate through certain pre-arranged activities at set time increments and one station will be working with me, the teacher. In doing so the students are able to use discovery learning, collaborative learning, and I can use scaffolding at my station. My station will serve to clear up any misinformation, like mentioned above. 12. SOURCES Atherton, James. Learning and Teaching. National Teaching Fellowship, 10 February 2013. Web. 9 April 2014. Jean Piaget. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 April 2014. Learning Theories. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 April 2014. Lev Vygotsky. Drawing. Wikimedia Commons. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 April 2014. Schoolchildren Reading. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. N.p., 5 February 2014. Web. 9 April 2014. Shelly, Gary, Gunter, Glenda, and Randolph Gunter. Teachers Discovering Computers: Integrating Technology in a Connected World. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print. Watson-Schtze, Eva. John Dewey in 1902. Photograph. Wikimedia Commons. N.p., 27September 2010. Web. 9 April 2014. Woodleywonderworks. Using Centers and Stations to Teach. Photograph. Flickr.