By: Farnoush Davis
Reviewed by: Barry Duff
Social Activism Learning Theory
Overview Social activism theory is a learning theory which describes learning as a collaborative activity that takes place in social negotiation (Smith & Ragan, 2005). This theory belongs to the constructivism school of thought which states that ³Knowledge is not transmitted: it is constructed´ (Smith & Ragan, 2005, p. 19). The epistemological or the ³theory of knowledge´ of this theory is a rationalist philosophy (Field, 2005). The characteristic of this philosophy is that reason is a source of knowledge. Contributors Social activism theory is rooted in John Dewey¶s work (1938) (Petraglia, 1998). However, there are other major developers in this field such as Jean Piaget (1970), the main contributor of the constructivism approach, who developed a constructivism learning theory which focuses on the way we learn and organize information. In 1962, Lev Vygotsky developed his constructivism learning theory which concentrates on how we gain information (Leonard, Noh, & Orey, 2007). Major Principles According to social activism theory, students learn how to integrate their experience and knowledge in the situation, and then process this information in group discussion that may be instructor-learner and/or learner-learner interactions. The results of this collaboration occur in a social context to enhance the process of thinking and deep understanding. The main principles of this theory are: (a) knowledge is constructed through explanation and negotiation in collaboration of multiple perspectives, (b) learning takes place through interactions with the instructor and other learners, and (c) learning is more meaningful when it happens in an environment of varied sources (Jonassen & Land, 2000). Application Project-based instruction is a learning model based on constructivist learning theories. This learning instruction is a comprehensive task to enhance the learners¶ thinking ability which happens through an open-ended problem with no right or wrong answer. The purpose is to motivate learners to present their unique solutions based on the provided situation. ³Project-based learning requires considerable knowledge, effort, persistence, and selfregulation on the part of students´ (Blumenfeld, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial, & Palincsar, 1991, p. 393). However, the instructor plays a critical role in this process. This means that the instructor needs to find out the knowledge and level of understanding of the learner regarding the problem. This assessment can be through reading journals, portfolio assessment, and interviews. The characteristics of traditional instruction like focusing on correct answers, grades, and performance competition cause the learners to lose motivation, worry about making mistakes, and use thinking strategies less. In contrast, project-based learning provides a collaborative environment instead of negative competition. In addition, technology tools can also contribute to the concept and the environment of project-based instruction (Blumenfeld, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial, & Palincsar, 1991).
By: Farnoush Davis
Reviewed by: Barry Duff
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