July 24, 2010
-- The focus of the constructivist theory is on the process of constructing learning and the understanding through active engagement or communication of the learners. Essentially, constructivists put the means of learning in the control of the learner (Ormrod, 2008). The theory is based on Piaget’s research related to the way learning takes place. He believed that reality is not absolute, and human beings construct knowledge based on their perceptions of the world (Fosnot, 1996). Other theorists that contributed to the current constructivist view include Lev Vygotsky, Jerome Bruner, Howard Gardner, and Nelson Goodman.
Overall, the theorists believed that the constructivist theory of learning and development occur when learners interact with the environment and people around them (Hunt, 1969). Therefore, the constructivist view empowers students to follow their own interests and make the connections necessary to form new ideas. The theory rests on the assumption that knowledge is constructed by learners as they attempt to make sense of their experience, and the learner should have the ability to have control of the learning process.
The goals of constructivist-
centered instruction are problem solving, reasoning, critical thinking, and the active and reflective use of knowledge. The constructivist views the goals of learning as embedding learning in complex, realistic, and relevant environments;
providing for social negotiation as an integral part of learning; supporting multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of representation;
encouraging ownership in learning; and nurturing self-awareness of the knowledge construction process (Driscoll, 2005). All of these goals are considered by the instructor to facilitate an environment that encourages active participation, interactivity, open communications, and pleasant conditions. This is accomplished through a learning community that encourages reciprocal teaching activities that include discussions, group projects, presentations, and experiential activities to provide an environment that fosters higher level learning.
These principles and goals of teaching and learning for constructivists are threaded together by the interaction between the teacher and the student. The student’s role related to instruction should be that of a participant in the construction of their own knowledge. This theory is reflected in Dewey’s concept of experience as the interaction of the person with her or his environment reflects this belief (Gertek, p. 83). Students should theory the classroom as a place where they can transform themselves. The term “transform”
implies renewing and awakening oneself intellectually, professionally, and personally. In addition, students must adopt the belief that they are responsible for their own learning. Students must actively take information and conceptualize it into their own reality. The will naturally promotes a change within the role of the teacher and the student.
The teacher’s role related to instruction and student success should be fostered by the ideal that students are motivated by their own internal perceptions, needs, and characteristics. Brook describes the constructivist teacher as one who places value on the student’s point of view and then behaves in an interactive manner, mediating the students (p. 17). Students are not motivated by external demands, expectations, and environmental conditions, but by an interaction of the two. Therefore, the teacher’s primary role is to provide an environment which fosters creativity and learning for the students.
Constructivist theorists such as Vygotsky and Dewey believed that learners do not learn in isolation from others, and cognitive psychology has gradually established that people naturally learn and work collaboratively in their lives (Petraglia, 1998). The importance of interactivity in the classroom through the active learning process is emphasized in the constructivist theory (Brooks & Brooks, 1993; Fosnot, 1996). It is the responsibility of the teacher to provide and environment to allow learners to chart the course of their learning. Also, the learner’s instructional environment must foster an environment that is conducive to learning and creativity