Social Constructivism and the Classroom

7 04 2011

What is social constructivism and what does it have to do with ICT and the classroom?

As Brewer and Daane (2002) have explained, a constructivist teacher is when he/she allows students to construct their own knowledge from within using their personal mental interactions and the interactions with the environment. Therefore, students are creating their own learning and meaning with the support of a teacher. The teacher is able to process the students knowledge by assimilating them with the knowledge they require.

SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVISM IN THE CLASSROOM

In an article called Translating Constructivist Theory into Practice (2002), a math teacher discovered that when working with a constructivist approach: “students were actively involved in the learning process, made their own decisions about appropriately problem solving strategies, negotiated new rules to math games and solutions to problems, and questioned each other as well as the teacher.” All of these effects are positive as they demonstrate that pupils are able to understand and engage with the content rather than just be spoon fed and repeat it.

The teacher plays a central role with students by increasing their knowledge and constructing it from prior experiences. Social interactions are of central importance in the classroom as they increase knowledge and learning in the classroom. These different types of interactions may occur in many different ways, especially through digital technology.

Correspondingly, Lev Vygotsky, a Russian psychologist, tells in his theory on the Zone of Proximal Development that it is of central importance that students are pushed to acquiring new information by demonstrating their social skills and interactions with people who are mature and knowledgeable than them but also on the same level so that learning takes place simultaneously.

DOES IT WORK?

In my opinion, social constructivism and other constructivist teaching approaches have a very fundamental place in the modern classrooms and in reality, they actually work. Constructivist approaches allow students to dominate their learning pace and also ensure they have understood the content very thoroughly.

In Mathematics and Science, constructivism works very easily as these units involve problem solving and thinking processes skills. However, constructivism is less promoted in the units that are less ‘clear’, for instance, there is art, music and English. Although constructivism is a great process to be utilized whilst discussing a topic collectively – teachers are still able to direct learning and students can absorb information however it still needs deep thought and absorption of information.

Constructivism is successful where students construct their knowledge from the way they understand the content they are learning. Once content is taken in by students, learning HAS taken place and that is very clear that constructivism has played it’s role. Personally, I think Brewer and Daane are right when they exclaim that “a strong foundation in the theory of effective teaching and learning, couples with corresponding classroom instructional practices, which can help promote higher quality” learning and I strongly believe social constructivism plays its role here.

REFERENCES:

Brewer, J., & Daane, C.J. (2002). Translating constructivist theory into practice in primary-grade mathematics, 123(2), 416-417.

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