constructivist theory education
This process of interpretation, articulation, and re-evaluation is repeated until they can demonstrate their comprehension of the subject.
Students ‘construct’ their own meaning by building on their previous knowledge and experience. New ideas and experiences are matched against existing knowledge, and the learner constructs new or adapted rules to make sense of the world. In such an environment the teacher cannot be in charge of the students’ learning, since everyone’s view of reality will be so different and students will come to learning already possessing their own constructs of the world.
Constructivism is the theory that says learners construct knowledge rather than just passively take in information. As people experience the world and reflect upon those experiences, they build their own representations and incorporate new information into their pre-existing knowledge (schemas).
There are several main components to include if you plan on adhering to constructivist principles in your classroom or when designing your lessons. The following are from Baviskar, Hartle & Whitney (2009):
GARDNER, HOWARD. 1999. The Disciplined Mind: What All Students Should Understand. New York: Simon and Schuster.
LAMPERT, MAGDELEINE. 1986. “Knowing, Doing, and Teaching Multiplication.” Cognition and Instruction 3:305–342.
5. Learning is a social activity: our learning is intimately associated with our connection with other human beings, our teachers, our peers, our family as well as casual acquaintances, including the people before us or next to us at the exhibit. We are more likely to be successful in our efforts to educate if we recognize this principle rather than try to avoid it. Much of traditional education, as Dewey pointed out, is directed towards isolating the learner from all social interaction, and towards seeing education as a one-on-one relationship between the learner and the objective material to be learned. In contrast, progressive education (to continue to use Dewey’s formulation) recognizes the social aspect of learning and uses conversation, interaction with others, and the application of knowledge as an integral aspect of learning. 11
It is important for exhibits to provide different kinds of entry points, using various sensory modes, different kinds of stimuli, to attract a wide range of learners. In teaching people to read, the use of different words which have powerful connections for individuals was dramatically described years ago by Sylvia Ashton-Warner18 and widely emulated since. Eurydice Retsila described a program in which children served as young ethnographers, developing individual projects of interest to them with the “assistance” of university students.
The constructivism learning theory argues that people produce knowledge and form meaning based upon their experiences. Two of the key concepts within the constructivism learning theory which create the construction of an individual’s new knowledge are accommodation and assimilation. Assimilating causes an individual to incorporate new experiences into the old experiences. This causes the individual to develop new outlooks, rethink what were once misunderstandings, and evaluate what is important, ultimately altering their perceptions. Accommodation, on the other hand, is reframing the world and new experiences into the mental capacity already present. Individuals conceive a particular fashion in which the world operates. When things do not operate within that context, they must accommodate and reframing the expectations with the outcomes.
The role of teachers is very important within the constructivism learning theory. Instead of giving a lecture the teachers in this theory function as facilitators whose role is to aid the student when it comes to their own understanding. This takes away focus from the teacher and lecture and puts it upon the student and their learning. The resources and lesson plans that must be initiated for this learning theory take a very different approach toward traditional learning as well. Instead of telling, the teacher must begin asking. Instead of answering questions that only align with their curriculum, the facilitator in this case must make it so that the student comes to the conclusions on their own instead of being told. Also, teachers are continually in conversation with the students, creating the learning experience that is open to new directions depending upon the needs of the student as the learning progresses. Teachers following Piaget’s theory of constructivism must challenge the student by making them effective critical thinkers and not being merely a “teacher” but also a mentor, a consultant, and a coach.