Apart from being a theory of learning, constructivism is also a philosophical framework of thinking, and therefore, is deemed by scholars, philosophers and educationalists as a variant of epistemology. Constructivism as a theory, postulates that human beings construct meaning from the present structure of knowledge. Constructivist theories of learning and educational teaching methods are hinged upon the arguments of the constructivist arguments on the nature of human learning. This theory makes much of learning programs that are facilitator- enabled and developmentally- appropriate. This is the notion that is assumed by facilitators of education (educators) when helping learners construct meaning of new ideas or concept.
The formalization of this theory can be attributed to Jean Piaget, the articulator of the mechanisms by which learners internalize knowledge. Piaget posited that individuals are able to from experiences, construct new knowledge through the process of assimilation and adoption. According to Piaget, individuals assimilate, when incorporating experiences that are new, into an already existing framework, without altering this framework. This can take place when there is the alignment of the experiences of the individuals with their internal representation of their surroundings.
Conversely, this may also occur when there is a failure on the side of the individual to correct faulty understanding. For instance, the learners may not be able to notice events, or may misconstrue input from others, or dismiss an event as a fluke, and therefore not worth taking down as an important thing to be associated with information in the world.
On the other hand, accommodation entails the learner fitting new experiences by reframing his mental representation of the surroundings. This can also be taken to be a mechanism whereby failure facilitates learning. This takes place when the learner acts on the speculation that the world around the learner operates in one way that contravenes his expectations, and thus leading to his failure. The learner then takes to accommodate this concept and subsequently reframes into his mind, a reformed pattern in which the world operates.
It is lucid, the thought that constructivism as a theory does not support one specific pedagogy. On the contrary, constructivism really majors on explaining how learning should take place- the methodologies that the students are using to understand a concept notwithstanding. This theory postulates that learners are able to construct knowledge, and is usually identified with the pedagogic methodologies that enhance active learning in a practical sense.
A brief history on constructivism.
During pristine times, constructivism as a theory was not popular, given that child play was deemed unimportant. This was the case until Jean Piaget came along, debunking this view by showing, through the use of scientific evidence, that child play was part of cognitive development. At the present, constructivist theories have become very powerful in the informal learning domains, the Investigative Center at the Museum of Natural History, London is one example of learning institutions that use the constructivist theory in instilling learning. In this institution, visitors are imbued in discrete forms of investigations of actual natural history specimens moving towards self set aims. Apart from Piaget, other scholars and philosophers who have influenced constructivism as a theory include Giambatistta Vico, Dewey John Immanuel Kant (1724- 1804) Lev Vygotsky, Bruner Jerome, Herbert Simon, Watzlawick Paul, Ernst von Glasersfeld and Morin Edgar (Bruner, 2004 pp 121).
CONSTRUCTIVISM AND THE LEARNING CURRICULUM.
The nature if the learner.
In this curriculum, the learner is perceived to be an individual so unique interms of personality, needs and background, so that the learner is taken as complex and multidimensional- needing that the teaching approaches also be complex and multidimensional. The adoption of a multidimensional and complex learning programs have inturn led to the need to carry out a multidisciplinary approach in learning. It is on this backdrop that virtually all educational curricula adopt the use of multidisciplinary approach in educating pupils, right from the preschool stage upto the end of high school stage.
At the same time, social constructivism reiterates the uniqueness of the children, as well as the learner's complexity. To this end, educationalists seek to utilize the concepts of issuing rewards towards learners, since this is deemed an integral facet of any learning process. The far reaching influence of this notion is seen in the fact that the rewarding of learners is a practice that is observed globally, by/ and in the educational sector.
Importance of the background of the learner and constructivism.
Social constructivists say that the essence of fusing the learner's background and learning programs is to basically encourage the learner to reach his/ or her own version of truth, and this perspective of truth inturn is heavily pivoted upon the learner's background, cultural orientation and an accumulation of the learner's world view. Fosnot (2005 pp 90) posits that the system of symbols (for instance, mathematics, linguistics and philosophy, among others) and historical development are factors and forces that are inherited by the learner who is a member of a certain culture, and that these factors are acquired through learning, throughout the learner's life.
It is on this backdrop that this group posits that there is much strength on the need to expose learners to social interaction programs so that the learners can meet with knowledgeable members of the society. Social constructivists maintain that learning and the effective application of the learned concepts can never take place without the use of this approach. It is on this premise that all universities, primary schools as well as high schools invite once in a while ( most schools do this at the end of each semester) influential people to give speech to the learners.
Additionally, social constructivists maintains that the young are able to advance their reasoning ability by interacting with their fellow children, knowledgeable adults and the surrounding physical world. Apart from supporting the interaction of children with knowledgeable adults, this notion has deeply affected the educational curriculum so that the practice of physical education and other extra curriculum activities are based on this. Physical education and extra curriculum activities such as drama, games, athletics, scholarly trivia competition are all concepts and practices that are virtually observed in the rest of the world, since educationalists have continued to prove empirically that there can never be the realization of all- rounded students without these.
Responsibility towards learning.
Constructivists posit that the responsibility of ensuring that learning takes place rests on the learner, as opposed to other conventional types of thoughts towards learning that hold that the responsibility lies on the teacher. It is on this premise that all educational systems in the world seek to make education centered on learners. This means that all learning facilitators directly involve the learners. As result of this, all the educational programs adopt the use of the question- and- answer technique of teaching. This is especially true, given the fact that constructivists maintain that it is the learners themselves who (are to) seek to realize order and regularity in world events in the absence of complete information.
The role of the instructor in the educational curriculum.
Social constructivists approach posit that unlike teachers who use didactic lectures approach to teach subject matters, instructors on the other hand are to assume the role of a a facilitator, so as to help the learners reach their own understanding of the concept in question. Social constructivists emphasize that this is geared towards turning the educational programs and the contents thereof, from the instructors, right to the learners. Unlike the teacher who teaches by merely lecturing, the facilitator also asks questions. The teacher basically teaches in front of the classroom, as opposed to the facilitator who accords the learners with support from the back of the class. Constructivist- based form of curriculum, unlike the conventional type of lecturing that sees the teacher carry out a monologue, ensures that facilitators dialogue with the learners with the dominant intention of challenging their thinking, and to help the learner become a critical thinker in life (Bruner, 2006 pp. 77).
Motivation for learning.
Herein, the source of motivation is perceived to be coming from the learners' self confidence and self ambition towards learning. It is based on the above opinion that students are assigned challenging tasks successively and progressively (upon successful solving of the problem) since feelings of competence towards problem- solving are massively reliant on the past experiences in problem solving. This is why preschool curriculum is full of practical tasks that are assigned to children – tasks such as jigsaw puzzle fitting, among others. Social constructivists maintain that this inner form of motivation is the strongest form of drive than any other type of motivational stimuli that comes from without.
The nature of the learning process.
Because of the propensity of constructivism to make learning a student oriented affair, constructivism stresses on the need to carry out practicals and physical education, and at the same time, integrates extracurricular activities so as to promote the observation of the Question- and- Answer teaching technique. The adoption of practicals in learning ensures that learners are able to develop their own understanding.
THE USE OF THE CONSTRUCTIVISM IN THE 21ST CENTURY.
Constructivism in the 21st century is still very vibrant since almost all of its elements are identifiable in all the educational sectors. Some of these practices are, the use of reward and punishment, setting of forums to facilitate students- professionals interaction, the adoption of practicals and Question- and- Answer teaching methodologies, and the use of extra curriculum activities (Foote, et al 2006 pp. 75).
In the same wavelength, it is expedient that it be taken taken to stock the fact that the approaches that are assumed by constructivists in education are not to go down with the exiting of the 21st century. On the contrary, these practices are likely to go down to posterity, given the fact that there is no proper learning that can effectively take place in the absence of the aforementioned instructional elements of constructivism.
The accruals of constructivism as an approach in teaching has ushered in a lot of gains in the teaching fraternity. One of the gains that constructivism has ushered in is that it has led to the creation of a population and a generation that is self reliant, creative and more hands- on. This is because the assumption of the facilitative role by the facilitators unlike the roles that are assumed by the teachers, enhances independent thinking. It is no wonder that ever since the adoption of constructivism in the educational fraternity, upto the present, the world has been witnessing continual and steady rise in innovations and inventions in the field of technology, all forms of sciences and in human health.
Bruner, S. (2004). Lectures on the mind and culture.
New York: Prentice Hall.
Foote, J. C. et al (2006). Strategies of constructivism.
Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Bruner, J. S. (2006). Minds and Social constructivism.
Michigan: Michigan University Press.
Fosnot, T. (2005). Theories and perspectives on constructivism.
New York: McGraw Hill Inc.