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Learning Theories Paper: Constructivism Kim Hefty, EdTech 504, Spring 2013 Overview Constructivism is a set of theories about

how students learn. This theory is primarily objectivistic; that is: the world is real, external to the learner (Ertmer & Newby, 1993 p. 62). Constructivism is a scaffolding approach to learning. It emphasizes the importance of active involvement of learners in constructing knowledge for themselves. The learner or student has a significant stake in their own learning. It begins with complex problems and teaches basic skills while solving these problems. Knowledge is not passively received from the world but is developed and created by learners trying to make sense of their experiences (Yilmaz, 2008 p.162). In constructivism, a teacher clarifies instead of informs, guides instead of directs, and supports a students effort rather than insist on their own methodology (Jonassen & Lund, 2000). Contributors Constructivism is not a single or unified theory and is based on the works of Piaget, Bruner, and Goodman (Ertmer & Newby ,1993 p.62). Constructivism was developed from the fields of cognitive science. The constructivist pedagogy is strongly influenced by the ideas of John Dewey and William James. The socio-historical work of Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, and Ernst von Glasersfeld has also had a significant impact on constructivism (Yilmaz, 2008 p.165). Although not all of these people collaborated, their ideas have been combined to develop a modern sense of constructivism. Constructivism incorporates the aspects of Piagets theory that people learn through the integration of experience and belief and Vygotskys theory that the personal pursuit of knowledge is influenced by the context of the social situation in which they occur. (Matthews 2003) John Dewey was a major force for progressive education (Matthews, 2003 p. 54). John Dewey insisted that philosophy and science are always embedded in the contexts of cultural practice a world of action and interaction (Hickman, 2009). By marrying the ideas and mindsets of these contributors we create a current understanding of constructionist theory. According to Kala Yilmaz, [constructivism theory] is characterized by plurality and multiple perspectives (Yilmaz, 2008 p. 163). Major Principles According to Kaya Yilmaz constructivism is based on a few core principles and assumptions. Learners are intellectually generative individuals (with the capacity to pose questions, solve problems, and construct theories and knowledge) rather than empty vessels waiting to be filled. Instruction should be based primarily on developing learners thinking (Yilmaz, 2008 p. 162). Appleton & King summarize that there are five axioms to constructivism. The five principles are (i) reality and its elements, (ii) causality, (iii) unique contexts resulting in absence of generalization, (iv) the relationship between the researcher and the phenomena under study and

(v) the impact of values on the inquiry process. They attribute these axioms to the work done by Guba & Lincoln in 1982 and 1985 (Appleton & King, 2002). Fox also summarizes (1) Learning is an active process. (2) Knowledge is constructed, rather than innate, or passively absorbed. (3) Knowledge is invented not discovered. (4a) All knowledge is personal and idiosyncratic. (4b) All knowledge is socially constructed. (5) Learning is essentially a process of making sense of the world. (6) Effective learning requires meaningful, open-ended, challenging problems for the learner to solve (Fox, 2001 p.24). Constructivism encourages a student to discover or explore within a given framework or structure. The teacher acts as a facilitator who encourages students to discover principles for themselves and to construct knowledge by working to solve realistic problems. Learning happens when students make personal connections to what they are studying and share this knowledge with others. Constructivism can be found in constructivist-learning design, self-directed learning, transformational learning, and experiential learning (Gagnon & Collay, 2006). Application Biggs asserts a more practical application of constructivism, with specific instructions of what a teacher should do: Provide instructional situations that elicit subject appropriate activities (1) view students' conceptions from their( the students') perspectives (2) see "errors" as reflecting the (their) current level of development (3) recognize that substantive learning occurs in periods of conflict, surprise, over periods of time, and through social interaction (Biggs, 1996 p.350). Gagnon and Collay present six elements to facilitate a constructivist learning environment: situation, groups, bridge, task, exhibit, and reflection (Gagnon & Collay, 2005 p.5). Using this design for a math lesson on fractions can begin by stating the essential questions you want the students to answer, or learn what they already know. Connecting prior knowledge and life experiences to the lesson helps to motivate the learner. Grouping can be done using any number of cooperative learning structures, or other forms that will best facilitate learning within the groups. Keeping the learner active and social helps the acquisition of new knowledge. Bridging the new knowledge with prior knowledge can be done with the groups listing what they know and how each thinks it applies to the essential questions. Participating in an activity, such as baking is an example of a real world application of this mode of learning, because of the possible success or failure drives the student forward in the process of acquiring knowledge. Conclusion The constructivist theory of education focuses on the process by which a student constructs knowledge for himself or herself under the guidance of a trained instructor. In this model, the teacher serves as a source of encouragement and guidance in the students process of forming knowledge as an individual. Constructivism focuses on two themes, that of the individuality of the learning process and the real world application of the knowledge that comes as a result of that process (Nance, 2009). According to Robert Nance, Constructivist learning, therefore, is a

very personal endeavor, whereby internalized concepts, rules, and general principles may consequently be applied in a practical real-world context (Nance, 2009 p.6). In constructivism, the goal of a teacher is to encourage the students individual learning process rather than control it (Jonassen & Lund, 2000). References: Appleton, J. V., & King, L. (2002). Journeying from the philosophical contemplation of constructivism to the methodological pragmatics of health services research. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 40(6), 641-648. Biggs, J. (1996). Enhancing teaching through constructive alignment. Higher education, 32(3), 347-364. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/stable/pdfplus/3448076.pdf?acceptTC=true Ertmer, P.A., & Newby, T.J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4), 50-72. Retrieved from http://www.ifets.info/journals/3_2/tam.html Fox, R. (2001). Constructivism examined. Oxford review of education, 27(1), 23-35. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/stable/pdfplus/1050991.pdf?acceptTC=true Gagnon, G. W., & Collay, M. (2005). Constructivist learning design: Key questions for teaching to standards. Corwin Press. Retrieved from Boise State Library Hickman, L., & Reich, K. (Eds.). (2009). John Dewey between pragmatism and constructivism. Fordham University Press. Retrieved from http://books.google.com.libproxy.boisestate.edu/ Jonassen, D.H., & Land , S.M. (2000). Theotetical foundations of learning environments. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Stanovich, K. (1994). Constructivism in reading education. Journal of Special Education, 28(3), 259. Kolb, A. Y., & Kolb, D. A. (2005). Learning Styles and Learning Spaces: Enhancing Experiential Learning in Higher Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 4(2), 193-212. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.boisestate.edu/stable/10.2307/40214287 Matthews, W. J. (2003). Constructivism in the Classroom: Epistemology, History, and Empirical Evidence. Teacher Education Quarterly, 30(3), 51-64. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ852364.pdf Nance, R. (2009). THE IMPORTANCE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. Retrieved from http://www.fwquestclub.com/welcome_files/papers/childhood_education.pdf

Yilmaz, K. (2008). Constructivism: Its Theoretical Underpinnings, Variations, and Implications for Classroom Instruction. Educational Horizons, 86(3), 161-172. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov.libproxy.boisestate.edu/PDFS/EJ798521.pdf