Thursday, December 17, 2009

What is Constructivism?

Constructivism is a philosophy that views learning as an active process in which learners construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world through action and reflection. Constructivists argue that individuals generate rules and mental models as the result of their experiences with both other human subjects and their environments and in turn use these rules and models to make sense of new experiences.

Three important concepts emerge from this definition:

  1. Knowledge is socially constructed. It is not something that exists outside of language and the social subjects who use it. Learning--obtaining knowledge and making meaning--is thus a social process rather than the work of the isolated individual mind; it cannot be divorced from learners' social context.
  2. Learning is an active process. Students learn by doing rather than by passively absorbing information.
  3. Knowledge is constructed from experience. Students bring prior knowledge into a learning situation, which in turn forms the basis for their construction of new knowledge. Upon encountering something new, learners must first reconcile it in some way with their previous ideas and experiences. This may mean changing what they believe, expanding their understanding, or disregarding the new information as irrelevant.

In this framework then, learning is not a process of transmission of information from teacher to student, a model which positions the student as a passive receptacle, but an active process of construction on the part of the learner that involves making meaning out of multiplicity stimuli.

In practice, educators use active techniques (experiments, real-world examples, problem solving activities, dialogues) to introduce students to information and issues and then encourage students to reflect on and talk about what they did and how their understanding is changing. The teacher makes sure she understands the students' preexisting conceptions and guides activities to address and build on them. Constructivism also often utilizes collaboration and peer criticism as a way of facilitating students' abilities to reach a new level of understanding.

Ref: retrieved on 17/12/09

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