Comparison of two learning theories
Constructivism and social constructivism are learning theories that are considered very important for learning in several stages of the child. Constructivism refers to the learning theory that involves the use of the learner’s mind (cognitive). This theory explains that there are several processes that take place in the mind of a learner when he is learning. It bases learning as simply the idea of reorganizing the mind so that it can assimilate new experiences.
This occurs when the individual learns the environment in which he lives in and understands it. After the learner getting to know more about the environment that he is in, he comes up with rules and mental formulas that they will use to make a meaning of the experiences that they encounter.
Social constructivism on the other hand is a theory that was developed by Vygotsky (1962) and it explains that the learner cannot merely depend on his mind to learn but there has to be an aspect of social influence.
Vygotsky indicated that children who were tested to do some exercises on their own did not do well, but those who had been influenced by the parent’s performed well. The adult therefore is very fundamental in the learning of the child because they help them redefine their thinking and consequently make them more active. It’s therefore very important to stretch the student and not limit them to their own activities according to Vygotsky (Vygotsky, 1999).
These two theories depict several contrasts and comparisons especially in the styles and methods of learning. From a children’s learning point of view one of the comparisons that these two theories have is that they both are vital for accommodation and assimilation of phenomenon by the child. Despite the different methods used to assimilate i.e. by use of the mind in the case of constructivism and the use of the social factors by the social constructivism they all aid the child to accommodate and assimilate some important facts of learning. In the former case the child forms schemas in the mind by observing the environment while in the later case the child looks at the parent or the teacher and tries to do the same thing that the teacher does. Through both of these methods, the child learns some issues that are fundamental in his study (Boud and Feletti, 2005).
Another comparison that the two theories have is that both the learning environments of these two theories encourage a thoughtful reflection of experiences. Often a child will look at some particular issue and use the mental ability to distinguish whether its good or bad. This is when the facts are based on constructivism. If the child is exposed to a parent or the teacher, the child will belief that since the teacher is experienced and old enough in the field, then the right thing to do is what these social factors have demonstrated.
The two fundamental theories of learning also depict a similarity in that they all view concepts from a meaningful point of view rather than an abstract point of view. The child often accommodates that which he has seen in the real environment and learns form it as is in the case of constructivism while a child who learns form the assimilation of social factors like influence by the teacher and the parent often look at the things that these social factors do and therefore develop some learning through them. Both of these factors depict a real life situation rather than an abstract scenario.
Despite these comparisons that these two theories have they also have some contrasts in them. One of the contrast as seen in the learning of a child is how the two theories express the learner. Whereas the constructivism theory depicts the learner as unique in that he uses his own schemas to internalize knowledge, the social constructivists explain that a child needs to get some influence form the external environment so that they can actively learn. The social environment involves the teachers, the fellow pupils and their parents. For social constructivists the social environment is a very integral part of learning for the children.
Another contrast is that of importance of the background and culture of the learner in the learning environment. The social constructivists explain that the background and the culture of the learner are very vital issues that the learner brings to class (Collins & Duguid, 2000). They therefore explain that the learner needs to have had a good background so as to achieve the best in learning. The background includes the developments of issues like the use of the language systems; mathematical systems and logic which is said to be inherited form the past learners. These theory also describes the importance of having learned and knowledgeable members of the society so that they can be an influence to the children. On the contrary, the constructivism theory explains that the learner and his environment do not influence the learning of that individual in any way. This theory does not consider the background and culture of an individual as a factor that shapes the truth that the learner obtains and internalizes as learnt knowledge but according to the theory the individual’s own perception of the environment is very important.
The responsibility of learning is also another issue that creates contrast between constructivism and social constructivism learning theories. In the case of social constructivism, the learner is said to be active because often the learner works in a group and the actions need to be seen. It’s very important therefore for the learner to develop ways that are important for active participation in learning. On the other hand constructivism depicts the learner as passive and obtains knowledge by assimilating it on his own. They explain that learners develop understanding on their own and do not have to compare it with others in the society or in class.
According to the constructivist approach, instructors do not play a very vital role in learning because they are not to be emulated by the child. This theory explains that the instructor acts as only a teacher that brings the content to the child but it’s upon the child to internalize the content by deciding for himself or herself. The teacher acts as a lecturer who covers the subject matter. In contrast, the social constructivism theory depicts instructors as facilitators and not teachers. This is because a facilitator helps the learner to understand the content of what he is teaching and not merely bringing the concept to class.
The social constructivist theory views the entire learning process as related to the context of the learning itself (Kim, 2005). The context is therefore the most important element in the learning setup and therefore influences the learning of the child. They explain that the activities that the child does in the learning environment are very important aspects since they depict a kind of learning that is practical. The constructivism theory on the other hand explains that whether the child involves in play or not, the mind is very central for the process of learning. Assessment is another issue that is very fundamental in any learning activity (Renkil & Wortham, 2000). These two theories contrast in their form of assessment in that while the social constructivist theory explain that the instructor is a very important element in assessment, the constructivist theory does not acknowledge the importance of the instructor because they are considered merely persons who give the tests which can be inform of written assessments.
The constructivist theory and the social constructivist theory are very important theories that have shaped education styles and the environments for learning. Despite the similarities that both of these theories portray, they also have several differences. Several learning setups have adopted either the use of these two theories together so that they can bring a harmonious relationship to the educational setup.
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