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Constructivism:

The Associated Names of this Theory:


Constructivsm is recognized as a unique learning theory in itself. It
however, may be associated with cognitive psychology because as a
theory of learning it focuses on a learner's ability to mentally
construct meaning of their own environment and to create their own
learning. As a teaching practice it is associated with diferent
degrees of nondirected learning. !he term constructivsm is lin"ed
to Cognitive and #ocial Constructivsm.

Theorists associated with Constuctivism:
$ohn %ewey
&ev 'ygots"y
$ean (iaget
$erome )runer
#eymour (apert
*itchell +esnic"

)ehaviorist learning theory had served its purpose and its approach
and goals were becoming outdated according to Constructivists li"e
#eymour (apert. Constructivist learning theory sought to improve on
what )ehaviorist learning theory had already established by
focussing on the motivation and ability for humans to construct
learning for themselves. It viewed )ehaviorism as being too teacher
centered and directed. Constructivists regarded the educational
system as a process of matching s"ill ob,ectives with test items. It
was void of meaningful learning. !hey also saw the teaching process
focus too much on individual wor" rather than on group wor".
!he -nal critique of )ehaviorist learning theory from the
Constructivist perspective helped de-ne the core of Constructivism.
!o imply that "nowledge is separate to the human mind and that it
must be transferred to the learner in a teacher centered approach
fundamentally was counter to the Constructivist theory of learning.
Constructivists believe that all humans have the ability to construct
"nowledge in their own minds through a process of discovery and
problemsolving. !he e.tent to which this process can ta"e place
naturally, without structure and teaching is the de-ning factor
amongst those who advocate this learning theory.
$ean (iaget, a #wiss psychologist, observed human development as
progressive stages of cognitive development. /is four stages, which
commence at infancy and progress into adulthood, characterize the
cognitive abilities necessary at each stage to construct meaning of
ones environment.
#eymour (apert, psychologist and contemporary critique of
)ehaviorist teaching methods, writes in his boo", !he Children's
*achine0
!hus, constructionism, my personal reconstruction of
constructivism has as its main feature the fact that it
loo"s more closely than other educational isms at the
idea of mental construction. It attaches special
importance to the role of constructions in the world as a
support for those in the head, thereby becoming less of
a purely mentalist doctrine. 1(apert, 2334, p.2567
As the inventor of &898, the programming tool for children, (apert
too believed that children as learners have a natural curiosity to
construct meaning of their world. !he educational system as (apert
saw it was too structured and it sti:ed this natural curiosity. !he
means by which children were being taught relegated them to a role
of passive recipients of the teaching hence, they were not motivated
to construct any learning for themselves. &earning according to
Constructivists is a question of motivating an individual to attach
new meaning to past cognitive e.periences.
(apert's desire to have children become motivated learners, critical
thin"ers, problemsolvers and metacognitionists is to be achieved
through educational reform that provides the learner with the
necessary tools to participate and to ta"e ownership of the learning
process. According to (apert, the computer is the appropriate tool to
achieve such desired educational reform.
!hese desired ob,ectives of (apert and others who share the
Constructivist view of learning are coming closer to reality as more
people discover the power of computer technology. ;rom %onald
!apscott's perspective, (apert's desired reality is happening now, as
a paradigm shift to more interactive learning due to the e.ploitation
of the digital media is ta"ing place in our learning institutions.
!apscott cites eight shifts in learning today0
;rom linear to hypermedia.
;rom instruction to construction and discovery.
;rom teachercentered to learnercentered education.
;rom absorbing material to learning how to navigate and how
to learn.
;rom school to lifelong learning.
;rom onesize-tsall to customized learning.
;rom learning as torture as learning as fun.
;rom the teacher as transmitter to the teacher as facilitator.
Bruner
A ma,or theme of )runer's construction theory is that learning is an
active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based
upon their current<past "nowledge. !he learner selects and transforms
information, constructs hypotheses, and ma"es decisions, relying on a
cognitive structure, e.g. schema and mental models, to do so. !he
interconnection of the new e.perience with the prior "nowledge results in
the reorganization of the cognitive structure, which creates meaning and
allows the individual to =go beyond the information given=.
According to !I('s 1!heory Into (ractice database7 abstract of )runer's
theory, the principles of instruction based on )runer include0
2. +eadiness0 Instruction must be concerned with the e.periences and
conte.ts that ma"e the student willing and able to learn
6. #piral organization0 Instruction must be structured so that it can be
easily grasped by the student
4. 9oing beyond the information given0 Instruction should be
designed to facilitate e.trapolation and or -ll in the gaps
!I(1!heory Into (ractice database7 described that )runer's ma,or
theoretical framewor" is that learning is an active process in which
learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current<past
"nowledge. In other words, &earning is an active, social process in which
students construct new ideas or concepts based on current "nowledge.
!he student selects information, originates hypotheses, and ma"es
decisions in the process of integrating e.periences into their e.isting
mental constructs.
What are Bruner's key concepts? (Driscoll, 2000)
2. !hree *odes of presenting understanding
>nactive representation, a mode of representing past events
through appropriate motor responses
Iconic representation, which enables the perceiver to =summarize
events by organization of percepts and of images
#ymbolic representation, =a symbol system which represents things
by design features that can be arbitrary and remote, e.g. language

6. %iferent from a -.ed sequence of developmental stages, )runer
emphasizes the in:uences from the environment on ampli-cation of
the internal capabilities that learners possess.
)runer's readiness (iaget's readiness Ausubel's readiness
+eadiness of the sub,ect
matter for the learner0
how to match instruction
to the child's dominant
mode of thin"ing
Cognitive readiness
of the learner to
understand the
logical operations in
a sub,ect matter
Appropriateness in terms of
the child's prior "nowledge,
i.e. what she "nows and
how she structure that
"nowledge in memory
%iferent from (iaget's cognitive development, which proposed that the
qualitative diference in thin"ing is a stageli"e development, )runer's
concept is that whereas symbolic representation is li"ely to be used for
learning something new in a familiar topic? learners of all ages may resort
to enactive or iconic representation when they encounter unfamiliar
materials. !hus, to determine what mode of representation will be
optimal for instruction requires "nowing something about the learner's
prior "nowledge and dominant modes of thin"ing.
4. #chooling as an instrument of culture. @nowing is a process, not a
product. Children should be accepted as members and participants in
the culture and provide opportunities to ma"e and rema"e the culture
in each generation.
)runer 123AA7 states that a theory of instruction should address four
ma,or aspects0
2. (redisposition towards learning
6. !he ways in which a body of "nowledge can be structured so that it
can be most readily grasped by the learner
4. !he most efective sequences in which to present material
5. !he nature and pacing of rewards and punishments..
Bruner's infuence on instruction
#piral Curriculum0 !ranslating material into children's modes of thought0
presenting topics consistent with children's forms of thought at an
early age and then reintroducing those topics again later in a
diferent form
Interpersonal interaction is a means that enable learners to develop
cognitive growth0 questioning, prompting
%iscovery learning0 discovery as= all forms of obtaining "nowledge for
oneself by the use of one's own mind= #tudents need to determine
what variables are relevant, what information should be sought
about those variables, and when the information is obtained, what
should be done with it.%iscovery of a concept proceeds from a
systematic comparison of instances for what distinguishes
e.amples from none.amples. !o promote concept discovery, the
teacher presents the set of instances that will best help learners to
develop an appropriate model of the concept.Contrast that lead to
cognitive con:icts can set the stage for discovery
'ariables in instruction0 nature of "nowledge, nature of the "nower, and
nature of the "nowledgegetting process
(romote discovery in the e.ercise of problem solving
;eedbac" must be provided in a mode that is both meaningful and
within the informationprocessing capacity of the learner.
Intrinsic pleasure of discovery promote a sense of selfreward
von Glasersfeld
'on 9lasersfeld development of the epistemological basis of the
psychological variant incorporates both the (iagetian notion of
assimilation and accommodation and the cybernetic concept of viability
1Cobb, 23357. !he value of "nowledge no longer lies in its conveyance of
truth, but its viability in individual e.perience. 'on 9lasersfeld 123367
stated that =!ruths are replaced by viable models, and viability is always
relative to a chosen goal.= #imilar to (iaget, von 9lasersfeld sees learning
as an active process of selforganization in which the individual eliminate
'perturbation' 1disequlibrium in (iaget's term7 from the interaction with
others as well as an active construction of viable "nowledge adapted
from the interaction with others. Individuals' construction of their ways of
"nowing is the focus of von 9laserfeld. )ut, he also recognizes the
importance of social interaction as a process of meaning negotiation in
this sub,ective construction of "nowing.
What does it mean to learning?
Constructivism, applied as an e.planatory framewor" of learning,
describes how the learner constructs "nowledge from e.perience, which
ma"es it unique to each individual. (oints of view of constructivism bring
forth two ma,or trends of e.plaining how leaning occurs0 cognitive
constructivists, focusing on the individual cognitive construction of
mental structures? sociocultural constructivists, emphasizing the social
interaction and cultural practice on the construction of "nowledge. )oth
trends believe that0
2. @nowledge cannot e.ist independently from the "nower? "nowledge
cannot be reproduced and transmitted to another person.
6. &earning is viewed as selfregulatory process0
Cognitive constructivists focus on the active mental construction
struggling with the con:ict between e.isting personal models of the
world, and incoming information in the environment.
#ociocultural constructivists emphasis the process of enculturation
into a community of practice, in which learners construct their
models of reality as a meaningma"ing underta"ing with culturally
developed tools and symbols 1'ygots"y, 23BC7, and negotiate such
meaning thorough cooperative social activity, discourse and debate
1'on 9laserfeld, 23367
4. &earners are active in ma"ing sense of things instead of responding
to stimuli. Dnli"e information processor ta"ing in and storing up
information, learners = ma"e tentative interpretations of e.perience
and go on to elaborate and test those interpretations=1(er"ins,
23367
Impacts on Instructional Design
Constructivism provides diferent views of learning. &earners are no
longer passive recipients and reproducers of information. &earners are
active constructors of their own conceptual understanding, and active
meaning ma"ers interacting with the physical and social world. !he
design of learning environment based on constructivist view of learning
emphasizes the integration of three types of human e.periences
1'ygots"y, 23BC70 historical e.perience, e.g. the traditions and practices
of a culture, social e.perience, and adaptation e.perience, in which
people engage in active adaptation, changing the environment.
)elow are some general principles of learning derived form
constructivism 1#mith and +agan, 6EEE? %riscoll, 6EE2? %ufy F $onassen,
233670
&earning requires invention and selforganization on the part of learners
%isequilibrium facilitates learning0 >rrors need to be perceived as a
result of learners' conceptions and therefore not minimized or
avoided. !hus, challenge students with openended investigations
in realistic, meaningful conte.ts need to be ofered? allow learners
to e.plore and generate many possibilities, both aGrming and
contradictory.
+e:ective abstraction is the driving force of learning0 As meaning
ma"ers, humans see" to organize and generalize across
e.periences in a representational form
%ialogue within a community engenders further thin"ing0 the learners
are responsible for defending, proving, ,ustifying, and
communicating their ideas to the classroom community.
Principles of designing learning environment
$onassen 1233A7 proposed that learning environments should provide
active, intentional, comple., conte.tualized, re:ective, conversational,
collaborative, and constructive learning.
Image from %avid $onassen's site
%riscoll 16EEE7 listed constructivist principles for designing learning0
>mbed learning in comple., realistic and relevant environments
(rovide a social negotiation as an integral part of learning
#upport multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of
representation
>ncourage ownership in learning
Hurture selfawareness of the "nowledge construction process
Aout design of instruction
)ased on $onassen 123367 and %riscoll 16EEE7, constructivism has the
following impacts on instructional design0
2. Instructional goals and ob,ectives would be negotiated not imposed
6. !as" analysis would concentrate more on considering appropriate
interpretations and providing the intellectual tools that are
necessary for helping learners to construct "nowledge
4. %esigners would provide generative, mental construction tool "its
embedded in relevant learning environments that facilitate
"nowledge construction by learners
5. About evaluation0#ince constructivism does not hold the that the
function of instruction is to transmit "nowledge that mirrors the
reality and its structures to the learner's mind, criterionreferenced
evaluation, which is based on predetermined ob,ective standards, is
not an appropriate evaluation tool to constructivistic environments
1$onassen, 23367. !he focus of evaluation should be placed on the
process of "nowledge construction rather than the end products of
learning. And even if the end results are evaluated, it should
emphasize the higher order thin"ing of human being.
!he evaluation of learning focus on the higher order thin"ing, the
"nowledge construction process, and the building of the awareness
of such process.
!he conte.t of evaluation should be embedded in the authentic tas"s
and meaningful realworld conte.t.
!he criteria of evaluation should represent multiple perspectives in
learning environment. ;rom the perspective of sociocultural
constructivist, since =no ob,ective reality is uniformly interpretable
by all learners, then assessing the acquisition of such reality is not
possible= 1$onassen, 23367. !hus, the evaluation should focus on
the learning process rather than the product.
(ortfolio evaluation0 diferent student interpretation at diferent stages
in their learning process. &earning is multifaceted and
multiperspectival, so as the results of learning.
!he function of evaluation is not in the reinforcement or behavior
control tool but more of =a selfanalysis and metacognitive tool=.