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Constructivism entails the belief that learning takes place when there is a construction of both the learning mechanism and knowledge version supported by experiences, backgrounds, and aptitudes. A construction of knowledge occurs and is not transmitted. The knowledge generation occurs through new experiences, activities, and experiments. This essay explores the ideas of constructivism and how they are applied to the framework for teaching and learning in the early childhood and elementary classroom and the application of constructivism in promoting classroom learning (Roblyer, 2006).
The development of a child has a comparative connection to the constructivist learning theory as described by Jean Piaget. Piaget described the processes involved in obtaining knowledge (Yongue, 1998). He also indicated four stages of cognitive development theory, which include the sensorimotor stage among others. The memory, mobility, knowledge and language skills develop during this stage. The pre-operational stage applies to children aged from two to seven and involves demonstration of intelligence through the use of language, symbols and memory, as well as development of imagination and self-centeredness. The concrete operational stage involves demonstration of intelligence through manipulation of symbols. The final stage is the formal operational stage, which involves the logical use of symbols in demonstrating intangible concepts and self-centered thinking.
Piaget’s theory of cognitive development helps teachers with an effective understanding accumulate knowledge in a child. This can enable teachers to design lessons taking into account the thinking level of students. Learning is an active process, and the key to storage and assimilation of information should include making mistakes, experiencing something new, and finding solutions to problems. Information needs to be provided in a skillful manner and should function as an element for questioning. The rise in technology also provides the means of gaining experience in a class, as well as finding solutions and making mistakes by the students themselves. Learning also involves a social process of interaction between students and peers. Penetration of this process into the teaching process to make students interact with their peers is essential for experimental and real activities that offer new information needed to define a schema for the child (Roblyer, 2006).
Cognitive psychologists support the constructivism theory, which postulates the active construction of knowledge in students’ minds rather than activates passive transmission from lectures to students. The advantages of constructivism include empiricism, idealism, and relativism, which can cause havoc in the extremes of postmodernism. Constructivism originated from Piaget’s development theory and Vygotsky’s historical and social theories. Piaget’s concept of proto-constructivism indicates that consciousness of a student is not a container that should have informational content, but it is an accumulation of active experimentation especially in science and mathematics. Piaget focused on an individual’s intellectual development while, on the other hand, Vygotsky evaluated the historical and social environment in which learning occurs due to enhanced Russian translations from the time of the downfall of the Soviet Union. Vygotsky’s areas of interest comprised of the symbols’ influence thinking to a large extent; for example, numerals, languages, and differences in culture have an impact on the environment during cognitive development (Vygotsky, 1997).
The theories of Vygotsky and Piaget gave rise to wide and diverse, as well as spectral forms of constructivism. For example, according to radical constructivism derived from Piaget’s theory the external reality is unknowable and inscrutable. The possible existing constructs cannot be known by anyone. Learning occurs when there is a conflict in a new experience and the pre-existing construct of an individual, thus, forcing it to transform the accommodation of the occurrence that is novel. Communication is also enhanced in the classroom in case of identical constructs among students in order for them to be compatible with each other (Roblyer, 2006).
Social constructivism originated from the social and historical theories of Vygotsky. It involves utilizing and acknowledging the immediate social environment in the classroom where learning takes place. Social constructivism emphasizes responsibly of individual consciousness as well as collective consciousness in the setup of the classroom. For example, teaching mathematics does not necessarily entail the increase in the class’ collective practices. Obtaining the right answers to the arising questions fall under the discussion, collaboration, and activities, which are individually significant to students (Yongue, 1996).
Cultural constructivism involves a natural expansion of the social constructivism area. It involves the evaluation of the influences of culture from the external environment of the classroom setup upon the subject matter and students. Furthermore, the language’s nature signifies a key force, which drives the apprehension and shape of ideas. For instance, the English language has experienced a loss of its inflection because of Britain being repelled or survived by numerous invasions coming from the European mainland. These have made the English language decisively and inherently proceed towards gender inclusively, therefore, thoroughly regulating the development of thoughts from the feminine side as well as extensive matters of human rights (Liu & Hanauer, 2008).
Critical constructivism addresses existing sociopolitical bias in a direct way. This enables students to develop confidence and critical thinking in order to reform and recognize historical, cultural, and ideological artifacts in science and mathematics fields. Critical constructivism also recognizes the students’ vulnerability to cultural, social and political disempowerment and also explores possible cultural reforms in the classroom (Taylor, 1998). A key factor for these reforms is communicative ethics, which aims at maintaining optimal conditions for the creation of dialogue, targeting the achievement of mutual understanding in the classroom setting. These conditions include maintenance and establishment of the trusting, empathic, and caring interpersonal relationships. Another condition is the maintenance of conscience in relation to bilateral dialogue directed to the mutual understanding of standards, interests, and objectives. The last condition is the appraisal of criticism and consciousness towards unwritten rules and subtexts of the classroom setting as well as the entire society. Communicative ethics also provides students with an alternative, especially those students who are enforced to act in accordance with ulterior roles. It also promotes a deconstruction and rational assessment of the fraudulent claims alleged by social institutions (Taylor, 1998).
Other applications of constructivism include the involvement of students in the education system. Piaget encourages children to learn science through practical sessions and experimentations, as well as the general involvement in the education system as stated by Vygotsky. The mentioned approach does not enhance learning of factual and comprehensible information. However, children who use the uncomplicated methods and tools for professionals in different disciplines, in order to construct the children’s knowledge, usually possess the superior skills of generalization and learning needed to transfer to novel contexts (Fosnot, 1996). Additionally, students who study in small groups usually learn how to enhance their superior critical thinking as well as lengthy learning retention, as compared to those working on their own. It is evident that encouraging students to work in small groups or partnerships will give a helping hand in dealing with pre-determined complications connected to a large class.
Another theory not supported by the scientific revolution is the idea of empiricism with a close relation to idealism. Despite the social radicals, constructivists imply that they do not support empiricism since there are all hallmarks in their epistemology. They claim that knowledge is evaluated and formed by individuals. One’s knowledge is based on their experience since the external world is inaccessible, provided that individuals are aware of their own thoughts (Matthews, 1997). For example, if a student in a constructivist classroom carries out an experiment on nails to see how they rust, the detailed explanation given by a chemistry teacher cannot make the children agree with the fact that rusting is a chemical reaction occurring between water, iron, and oxygen, as it is a result of the novel substance intrusion also known as iron oxide. Children do not have a capability to adopt independent re-establishment of scientific abstract concepts, which scientists have been trying to formulate for several centuries. Children can only learn counterintuitive concepts during the teaching process. Examples of these subject areas include gene regulation, valency and thermodynamics. Consequently, this approach dominated by group work would assist students who live in poverty or have low English level, and face other barriers. This can result in the establishment of elitism and racism (Fosnot, 1996).
Constructivists do not believe in construction of knowledge, which is not transmitted. Students or children should be in a position to demonstrate various forms of learning and only by writing tests. Teachers concentrate on direct instructions while students are centered on hands-on teaching. Social activism, discovery learning and child development all cover the social process of interaction among students including the experimental and visual connections, and flexibility of demonstrating competence in students. Learning can also be enhanced through the processes of cooperative learning, real life experience and motivation with the help of various stimulations, WebQuests, blogs, wikis, virtual field trips, and jigsaw activities. Moderation of constructivism is often similar to a double- edged sword as the critical and cultural features aim at alerting the vulnerable public concerning the existing ideological and political artifacts that threaten the biosphere and human species.