Constructivist Theory

Topics: Educational psychology, Constructivism, Learning theory Pages: 24 (8104 words) Published: May 13, 2011
Constructivist theory
Formalization of the theory of constructivism is generally attributed to Jean Piaget, who articulated mechanisms by which knowledge is internalized by learners. He suggested that through processes of accommodation and assimilation, individuals construct new knowledge from their experiences. When individuals assimilate, they incorporate the new experience into an already existing framework without changing that framework. This may occur when individuals' experiences are aligned with their internal representations of the world, but may also occur as a failure to change a faulty understanding; for example, they may not notice events, may misunderstand input from others, or may decide that an event is a fluke and is therefore unimportant as information about the world. In contrast, when individuals' experiences contradict their internal representations, they may change their perceptions of the experiences to fit their internal representations. According to the theory, accommodation is the process of reframing one's mental representation of the external world to fit new experiences. Accommodation can be understood as the mechanism by which failure leads to learning: when we act on the expectation that the world operates in one way and it violates our expectations, we often fail, but by accommodating this new experience and reframing our model of the way the world works, we learn from the experience of failure, or others' failure. It is important to note that constructivism is not a particular pedagogy. In fact, constructivism is a theory describing how learning happens, regardless of whether learners are using their experiences to understand a lecture or following the instructions for building a model airplane. In both cases, the theory of constructivism suggests that learners construct knowledge out of their experiences. However, constructivism is often associated with pedagogic approaches that promote active learning, or learning by doing.

Constructionist learning is inspired by constructivist theories that learners actively construct mental models and theories of the world around them. Constructionism holds that learning can happen most effectively when people are actively making things in the real world. Constructionism is connected with experiential learning and builds on some of the ideas of Jean Piaget. Seymour Papert defined constructionism in a proposal to the National Science Foundation entitled Constructionism: A New Opportunity for Elementary Science Education as follows: "The word constructionism is a mnemonic for two aspects of the theory of science education underlying this project. From constructivist theories of psychology we take a view of learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge. Then we extend the idea of manipulative materials to the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences as constructing a meaningful product." As Papert and Idit Harel say at the start of Situating Constructionism, "It is easy enough to formulate simple catchy versions of the idea of constructionism; for example, thinking of it as 'learning-by-making'. One purpose of this introductory chapter is to orient the reader toward using the diversity in the volume to elaborate—to construct—a sense of constructionism much richer and more multifaceted, and very much deeper in its implications, than could be conveyed by any such formula." Papert's ideas became well-known through the publication of his seminal book Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas (Basic Books, 1980). Papert described children creating programs in the Logo language. He likened their learning to a living in a "mathland," where learning mathematical ideas is as natural as learning French while living in France. Papert has been a huge proponent of bringing IT to classrooms, as in his early uses of the Logo language to teach mathematics to children. Constructionist...

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