January 15 , 2014
What is Constructivism?:
• Apsychological theory (vs. sociological or philosophical).
• Atheory about how people learn.
• Became dominant only in the last 50-60 years.
• Main proponents: Dewey, Piaget and Vygotsky.
• May seem obvious, but it was/is revolutionary and controversial.
Building levels on the ones that already exist.
• Learners construct knowledge for themselves.
• Therefore, to learn is to construct.
• Because learning is constructing, we must focus on who does the learning: the student.
• Therefore, in constructivism, the student is the center: student centered learning.
What do Students Construct?:
• It’s called constructivism, so what is being constructed?:
o New knowledge.
∗ No knowledge is separate from the person, the context, or the experience.
• No such thing as knowledge “out-there”.
Contrast to John Locke:
• Students are like “blank slates”.
• They have no prior ideas, values, mental structures, or assumptions.
• Every time you teach something new, it is as if students have never thought before, and
have nothing in their minds.
• Students should work alone, and listen silently all day.
• Teaching is like pouring data into student’s empty heads.
• Learning is like having something put into your head.
o Learning is passive.
• Students already have a preexisting mental framework.
• As a teacher, you must help fit new information into that structure.
• Astudent embeds a new idea into the structure of prior ideas that already exist.
• Everybody takes in new knowledge differently.
• To make new learning ‘your own’, it is necessary to fit it in within what you already
know, sometimes discarding things you are mistaken about.
• Knowledge is incorporated into prior structure.
• It’s possible for you to ‘teach’something, but students don’t ‘learn’anything.
• Who you are as a person is important to how you respond to new material.
• We are active in creating theories to make sense of our world.
• Learning is based on the interaction between:
o Already existing structures in the mind.
o And new experiences and information. Context is Important:
• Teaching must take context into account:
o Ex) social and cultural context.
o Or individual context.
o Or context of curriculum content.
• I would teach this course differently if:
o I was teaching in Japan.
o You were over 40 years-old.
o It was 100 years-ago.
o You were all millionaires.
• How has context influenced you when you were teaching?
• How attentive have you been to context?
Role of a Teacher:
• Teachers as mediators and facilitators.
• Teacher wants to know and understand their students.
o Be present to your students.
• Ask open-ended questions and follow-up questions.
• Provoke dialogue and debate.
• Encourage students to find their own unique way to learn.
o Shift of responsibility.
• Instead of: teachers as all knowing and powerful.