Creating experiences that facilitate the construction of knowledge.
Constructivism is the theory that says learners construct knowledge rather than just passively take in information. As people experience the world and reflect upon those experiences, they build their own representations and incorporate new information into their pre-existing knowledge (schemas).
Related to this are the processes of assimilation and accommodation.
For example, if I believe that friends are always nice, and meet a new person who is always nice to me I may call this person a friend, assimilating them into my schema. Perhaps, however, I meet a different person who sometimes pushes me to try harder and is not always nice. I may decide to change my schema to accommodate this person by deciding a friend doesn’t always need to be nice if they have my best interests in mind. Further, this may make me reconsider whether the first person still fits into my friend schema.
Consequences of constructivist theory are that:
This last point is worth repeating. A traditional approach to teaching focuses on delivering information to students, yet constructivism argues that you cannot directly impart this information. Only an experience can facilitate students to construct their own knowledge. Therefore, the goal of teaching is to design these experiences.
There are many consequences for teaching and the classroom if you adhere to constructivist principles. The following chart from the Teaching and Learning Resources Wiki compares traditional and constructivist classrooms across several components
|Traditional Classroom||Constructivist Classroom|
|Curriculum begins with the parts of the whole. Emphasizes basic skills.||Curriculum emphasizes big concepts, beginning with the whole and expanding to include the parts.|
|Strict adherence to fixed curriculum is highly valued.||Pursuit of student questions and interests is valued.|
|Materials are primarily textbooks and workbooks.||Materials include primary sources of material and manipulative materials.|
|Learning is based on repetition.||Learning is interactive, building on what the student already knows.|
|Teachers disseminate information to students. Students are recipients of knowledge.||Teachers have a dialogue with students, helping students construct their own knowledge.|
|Teacher's role is directive, rooted in authority.||Teacher's role is interactive, rooted in negotiation.|
|Assessment is through testing and correct answers.||Assessment includes student works, observations and points of view, as well as tests. Process is as important as product.|
|Knowledge is seen as inert.||Knowledge is seen as dynamic, ever changing with our experiences.|
|Students work primarily alone.||Students work primarily in groups.|
There are several main components to include if you plan on adhering to constructivist principles in your classroom or when designing your lessons. The following are from Baviskar, Hartle & Whitney (2009):