Constructivism is an epistemological belief about what "knowing" is and how one "come to know." Contructivists believe in individual interpretations of the reality, i.e. the knower and the known are interactive and inseparable.
Constructivism rejects the notions that
Constructivism, with focus on social nature of cognition, suggests an approach that
Who are primary contributors?
This knowledge base will discuss particular the major influence from the field of cognitive science, i.e. the work of Piaget and Bruner, as well as from the work of socio-historical psychologists, such as Vygotsky.
Piaget (Also see Cognitivism)
Piaget's theory is fundamental to cognitivism and to constructivism. His central idea is that "knowledge proceeds neither solely from the experience of objects nor from an innate programming performed in the subject but from successive constructions." (Fosnot, 1996). Piaget (1985) proposed that the mechanism of learning is the process of equilibration, in which cognitive structure assimilates and accommodates to generate new possibilities when it is disturbed based on human's self-organizing tendency.
Vygotsky's sociohistorical development psychology focuses on the dialectic between the individual and society, and the effect of social interaction, language, and culture on learning. To Vygosky (1978), learning is a continual movement from the current intellectual level to a higher level which more closely approximates the learner's potential. This movement occurs in the so-called "zone of proximal development" as a result of social interaction. Thus, an understanding of human thinking depends in turn on an understanding of the mechanism of social experience; the force of the cognitive process deriving from the social interaction is emphasized. Also, the role of the adult and the learners' peers as they conversed, questioned, explained, and negotiated meaning is emphasized.
Vygostky's Sociohistorical Learning Theory or Sociocultural theory
Vygotsky was disappointed with the overwhelming control of environment over human behavior that is represented in behaviorism. Vygotsky (1978) objected to any tendency to equate human beings with animals on the basis of innate reflexes and conditional reflexes. He recognized the higher psychological functions of humans, especially the distinguishing mental process of signification by which humans assign meanings to arbitrary stimuli and with which human learning is determined by the social and historical context. He believed that human development and learning occur through their interactions with the environment and the other people in it.
Three themes that form the core of Vygotsky's theoretical framework: (Wertsch, 1992)
Implications to learning and instruction:
A major theme of Bruner's construction theory is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. The learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive structure, e.g. schema and mental models, to do so. The interconnection of the new experience with the prior knowledge results in the reorganization of the cognitive structure, which creates meaning and allows the individual to "go beyond the information given".
According to TIP's (Theory Into Practice database) abstract of Bruner's theory, the principles of instruction based on Bruner include:
Bruner's Constructive Learning
Bruner (1986) claims that constructivism began with Kant's concepts of a priori knowledge, which focuses on the importance of prior knowledge (what we know) to what we perceive from out interactions with the environment. Jonassen (1991) described Kant's ideas of individual construction of reality: " Kant believed in the external, physical world (noumena), but we know it only through our sensation (phenomena) - how the world appears to us."
TIP (Theory Into Practice database) described that Bruner's major theoretical framework is that learning is an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. In other words, Learning is an active, social process in which students construct new ideas or concepts based on current knowledge. The student selects information, originates hypotheses, and makes decisions in the process of integrating experiences into their existing mental constructs.
What are Bruner's key concepts? (Driscoll, 2000)Three Modes of presenting understanding
Bruner (1966) states that a theory of instruction should address four major aspects:
Bruner's influence on instruction
Von Glasersfeld development of the epistemological basis of the psychological variant incorporates both the Piagetian notion of assimilation and accommodation and the cybernetic concept of viability (Cobb, 1994). The value of knowledge no longer lies in its conveyance of truth, but its viability in individual experience.
Von Glasersfeld (1992) stated that "Truths are replaced by viable models, and viability is always relative to a chosen goal."
Similar to Piaget, von Glasersfeld sees learning as an active process of self-organization in which the individual eliminate 'perturbation' (disequlibrium in Piaget's term) from the interaction with others as well as an active construction of viable knowledge adapted from the interaction with others.
Individuals' construction of their ways of knowing is the focus of von Glaserfeld. But, he also recognizes the importance of social interaction as a process of meaning negotiation in this subjective construction of knowing.
What does it mean to learning?
Constructivism, applied as an explanatory framework of learning, describes how the learner constructs knowledge from experience, which makes it unique to each individual.
Points of view of constructivism bring forth two major trends of explaining how leaning occurs:
Both trends believe that:
Impacts on Instructional Design
Constructivism provides different views of learning. Learners are no longer passive recipients and reproducers of information.
Learners are active constructors of their own conceptual understanding, and active meaning makers interacting with the physical and social world.
The design of learning environment based on constructivist view of learning emphasizes the integration of three types of human experiences (Vygotsky, 1978):
Below are some general principles of learning derived form constructivism (Smith and Ragan, 2000; Driscoll, 2001; Duffy & Jonassen, 1992):
Principles of designing learning environment
Jonassen (1996) proposed that learning environments should provide active, intentional, complex, contextualized, reflective, conversational, collaborative, and constructive learning.
Image from David Jonassen's site
Driscoll (2000) listed constructivist principles for designing learning:
About design of instruction
Based on Jonassen (1992) and Driscoll (2000), constructivism has the following impacts on instructional design:
Bruner, J. (1986). Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Driscoll, M. P. (2000). Psychology of learning for instruction. 2nd ed. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Cobb, P. (1994). Where is the Mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspectives on mathematic development. Educational Researcher, 23 (7), pp. 13-20
Fosnot, C. T. (1996). (Ed.) Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Jonassen, D. H. (1992). Evaluating constructivist learning. In T. M. Duffy, & D. H. Jonassen (eds), Constructivism and the technology of instruction: A conversation. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Association.
Piaget, J. (1985). The equilibration of cognitive structures. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Smith, P. L., & Ragan, T. J. (1999). Instructional Design. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Von Glaserfeld (1992). Constructivism reconstruction: A reply to Suchting. Science and Education, 1, 379-384.
Vyogtsky, L. S. (1979). Consciousness as a problem in the psychology of behavior.Soviet Psychology, 17 (4), 3-35. (Original work published in 19-24).
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychology process. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Original published in 1930).
Wertsch, J. V. (1992). L. S. Vygotsky and contemporary developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology, 28 *4), 548-557. Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Original work published 1962).