Constructivist Learning Theory, Teaching, and Learning

Every student in a classroom is unique. Learning styles, prior knowledge, academic level, cultural background, interests and strengths all play a role in an individual student’s learning experience. In order to effectively meet the needs of each student in the classroom, classroom instruction must be differentiated in a way that tailors to every student’s unique situation.

The constructivism learning theory is the idea that “knowledge is uniquely constructed within our own minds and based on our own experiences” (Laureate Education, 2015e p.1). This is similar to the idea behind the action of constructionism which is the educational practice built on the idea that “students need to have first hand experiences with building knowledge in order to learn effectively” (Laureate Education, 2015e p.1). In all, constructivism and constructionism focus on how people gain and retain knowledge. One building block of this learning theory is the process known as assimilation. Assimilation is the method of taking new concepts and linking it to prior knowledge building a network of information based on “existing internal cognitive structures” (Orey, 2001 para. 5). This is a very common process and is related to research regarding memory that states people need to build networks of information in order to effectively construct knowledge (Greer & Crutchfeild, 2013). Another process of retaining information is known as Accommodation. This is more commonly seen in younger children who have yet to create various schema (Laureate Education, 2015e). It is when the various experience become the first piece of knowledge to build a network. Therefore, instead of adding information to already formed networks, new networks are created to fit the specific learning experience. By assimilating and accommodating new information, the body is creating a state of equilibration, which is a balance between what you learn and what you have previously experienced. “This effort to maintain a balance, denoted by equilibration, allows for cognitive development and effective thought processes” (Orey, 2001 para. 9).

In a given classroom, every student enters with already formed networks of knowledge and it is important to allow students the opportunity to explore new concepts in relation to their prior knowledge and experiences. In order to give every student this chance, differentiating instructional methods is key. Not only is varying educational practices important, but basing in class activities on student led, discovery and exploration undertakings is essential for students building a strong foundation of understanding. In order to make this opportunity available, utilizing a variety of technology is key. Some students have different strengths, therefore opening the door for students to use various technologies to explore, discover and build understanding of concepts is a way to tailor to a student’s strength and in turn foster motivation and engagement. In addition to providing a method for students to utilizing their strengths, it also gives the ability for students to be presented with a variety of creative products which helps “sharpen their weaknesses as well” (Laureate Education, 2016 p. 3).

Currently in my teaching practices I provide at least one project based activity per marking period in order to allow students to pursue personal interests in relation to the material. This project has specific criteria based on the curriculum being covered, however is open ended in regards to resources that students are allowed to utilize. I have found that students are more creative when given room to explore and branch out academically. Promoting innovative thinking and customizing personal learning experiences are effective learning strategies in a constructivism classroom (ISTE, 2008). In math, many students talents and strong skills go unnoticed because they do not directly apply to the mathematical process, however when given open ended project based activities, students become more personally invested. I have seen students create PowerPoints, movies, drawings, paintings, presentations, online posters, and so much more. By allowing students to construct, “students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process” (ISTE, 2016 para. 4).

In a constructivism classroom, giving students the ability to create their own learning experience individualizes the learning process. The popular resources that I research throughout this module shared an enlightening point. Students are not blank slates that enter a classroom (Shaw, n.d.). Every single student enters the classroom with prior knowledge and personal experiences that impact their learning. Every student should be able to use their background to help construct understanding of new concepts. This resource also has numerous links and additional sources for constructing knowledge in a math classroom. Utilizing this source in my variation of the Genius Hour will allow me to give my students many websites that can help aid them in their projects. Giving students a variety of resource to pick from opens the door for more creativity and innovative thinking. My Scholarly source shares information about Web 2.0 that are useful in constructivist classrooms. “Emerging technology is characterized by greater functionality, interoperability and connectivity helps in knowledge creation through open communication and collaboration” (Paily, 2013). Utilizing these tools in education has the potential to create priceless learning experiences for every individual in the classroom. Promoting the use of Web 2.0 tools during my variation of G.H gives students more opportunities to explore, create and collaborate.

Teachers should play the role of the facilitator and students should lead activities and explore their individual curiosities (Shaw, n.d.). In a constructivist classroom setting, students are able to create their own learning experiences tailored to their own prior knowledge and readiness level. Effective educational experiences involve promoting hands on building of understanding. Utilizing various technologies and differentiating instruction give students these opportunities.

 

References:

Greer, D: d., Crutchfield, S. s., Woods, K. k. (2013). Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning, Instructional Design Principles, and Students with Learning Disabilities in Computer-based and Online Learning Environments. Journal Of Education, 193(2), 41-50.

International Society for technology in Education (ISTE). (2008). Standards for teachers. Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-teachers

International Society for technology in Education (ISTE). (2016). Standards for Students.   Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016

Laureate Education (Producer). (2015e). Constructionist and constructivist learning theories. [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2016c). Constructivism in practice [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Orey, M. (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from     http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Main_Page

Paily, M. m. (2013). Creating Constructivist Learning Environment: Role of “Web 2.0” Technology. International Forum Of Teaching & Studies, 9(1), 39-50.

Shaw, G. (n.d.) Social Constructivism Website: What Are Some Useful Resources? Retrieved from https://www.smore.com/5jsnu-social-constructivist-websites

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