Social Constructivism:

Social Constructivism is an educational based learning theory that has been studied in greater detail from the mid 20th century. As Audrey Gray (2010) explains, it focuses, ‘… on the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved’ in their own learning and ‘…construction rather than passively receiving information. John Abbott further discusses and explains social constructivism in this Youtube video. He best sums up the learning theory by stating that good teachers will teach children by taking what knowledge they already have and then expanding on it.

Its Background:

Lev Semenovich Vygotsky’s work on socio-cultural theory was a major influence to today’s Social Constructivists. As Anita Woolfolk and Kay Margettes (2010) explain, his sociocultural theory is based on the idea that interaction and dialogue between children and more knowledgeable members of society (educators, parents) is how learning is experienced. Reflective of Abbott’s explanation above, part of Vygotsky’s theory is focused on what he called ‘the Zone of Proximal Development’ (ZPD). AS Woolfolk and Margettes define, the ZPD is a visual representation of the areas between a person’s current and independent knowledge and the possible extend of what can be learned with the social interaction and assistance of more knowledgeable others.

Zone of Proximal Development

It is here repented visually above: the green oval represents what a child with his or her individual knowledge can achieve and the encircling orange oval is the possible level of achievement which can be attained with assistance of someone knowledgeable in that field.

Application today:

As Gray (2010) highlights, a constructivist classroom is one that is student centred, not teacher centred. These classrooms instead of focusing on final products or outcomes focus instead on the processes and techniques of how to create the final product. As expressed by R. White-Clark, M. DiCarlo and Sr N. Gilchriest (2008), three members of a current mathematic reform movement in the US, the traditional teacher-centred approach in teacher pedagogy is “…providing information to passive, uninvolved students (p.40).” In order to bring the students around and get them involved, they urge mathematical teachers to change their teaching styles from lecturing, teacher-centred methods to become a guide on the side, a teacher that “…facilitates the student’s construction of meaning and the understanding of the content (p.41).” Thus emphasis on co-operative learning, one that employs hands on learning, discovery learning, various technologies and critical thinking are all constructivist approaches that see to build a a more engaging, student centred classroom.

Constructivism and ICT:

By looking at what constructivism is, I can see that today’s ICT teaching tools can greatly support constructivist, student-centred learning. Tools mentioned in my previous posts, ICT’s such as the Interactive Whiteboards and Webquests/Wikispaces can all build knowledge through interactive and co-operative learning, which is the aim of  constructivist learning. Webquests in particular, greatly foster the idea of the teacher being a ‘guide on the side’. Having the Webquests set out in a sequence which includes an introduction, task, resources, process, evaluation and conclusion, the student has all the material needed to foster self learning. In addition, having group work and the access to the Internet encourages the ZPD as the students work together co-operatively.

IWBs ability to foster constructivism

Interactive Whiteboards foster this ZPD theory as well. By constructing interactive activities that follow from base knowledge students can work together with the teacher guiding them along. For example, a maths game can be created where the students need to work together co operatively and interact ont he IWB as seen above. Thus together the integration of ICT’s and Social COnstructivist learning methods can have a very positive effect on learning in the classroom.

References:

Dicarlo M., Sr Gilchriest N., & White Clark R. (2008). Guide on the side: An instructional approach to meet mathematics standards. Retrieved from BlackBoard (april 2011)

Gray A. (uploaded 2010). SSTA Research Centre Report #97-07: Constructivist Teaching and Learning http://www.thetrainingworld.com/cgi-bin/library/jump.cgi?ID=12728.

Margettes K., & Woolfolk A. (2010). Educational Psychology. (2nd ed), (pg. 51, 55) Sydney, NSW: Pearson Education Australia

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