In psychology and education, learning is commonly defined as a process that brings together cognitive, emotional, and environmental influences and experiences for acquiring, enhancing, or making changes in one's knowledge, skills, values, and world views. Learning as a process focuses on what happens when the learning takes place. Explanations of what happens constitute learning theories. A learning or practice theory attempts to describe how people and animals learn; thereby helping us understand the inherently complex process of learning. (Schunk, 2013). After spending 7 weeks teaching Grade R, I have come to the conclusion that the theoretical paradigm that best suits my perspective on teaching and learning is constructivism. Constructivism is a new approach in education that claims humans are better able to understand the information they have constructed by themselves. According to constructivist theories, learning is a social advancement that involves language, real world situations, and interaction and collaboration among learners. The learners are considered to be central in the learning process. Learning is affected by our prejudices, experiences, the time in which we live, and both physical and mental maturity or experiences. Constructivism transforms today’s classrooms into a knowledge-construction site where information is absorbed and knowledge is built by the learner. (Ozer, 2004) Constructivism is based on Relativist Ontology. Ontology is the study of the nature of being, existence or reality. It asks questions like, “What is an object?”, and “What does it mean to say something exists?” (Water & Mehay, 2010), Ontology questions the following: 1. Are you a realist? You see reality as something “out there” just waiting to be found. 2. Are you a critical realist? You know things exist out there but as human beings our own presence as researchers influences what we are trying to measure. 3. Are you a relativist? You believe that knowledge is a social reality and it only comes to light through individual interpretation. (Water & Mehay, 2010) Relativism holds that human beings have no direct access to the world “out there” and we can only directly access representation of the world in our consciousness. (Water & Mehay, 2010). Example: Imagine there is a blue mug in front of you, how do you know how this looks to another person? People have similar physical apparatus for focusing and similar pathways in the brain, but the blueness of the mug is something we construct in our consciousness and is unique for each of us. In contrast realists believe the blueness is experienced the same by all human beings. Therefore constructivism is based on a relativist ontology basically means constructivism is based on a notion that the truth about “What is what?” (Ontology) is socially negotiated (relativism). (Water & Mehay, 2010) Constructivism is based on a Subjectivist Epistemology (as opposed to an objectivist). Epistemology is concerned with the theory or nature of knowledge. Epistemologists don’t accept that people can just know things. They ask questions like a) what is knowledge anyway? b) How is it acquired? c) What do people know? d) How do we know what we know? (Water & Mehay, 2010) A subjectivist approach has its foundation in relativism (see above) and therefore sees a crucial role for the individual, concluding that knowledge cannot exist without individuals to construct it. Knowledge is essentially subjective, as each individual will construct their world in a unique way, depending on their background, the social forces acting on them, and so on. (Water & Mehay, 2010)
Knowledge is created by the individual in light of such background and social forces. There are multiple interpretations of any given situation: there is no single ultimate truth. A subjective ‘truth’ is only true under certain conditions, at certain times, or for certain people. (Water & Mehay, 2010)
The objectivist approach, on the other...
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