This project is a critical essay on constructivism. This essay comprises of several parts. The first part of the essay explains about the definition and the theoretical principles of constructivism. It then proceeds to discuss about the role of teacher and pupils in constructivist learning activities. The following point that this essay intend to discuss is about the strengths and weaknesses of the theory. The last part of the essay concerns the implications of this learning theory on teaching and learning in the classroom. Relevant examples and citations are provided in this discussion.
Constructivism is a theory about knowledge and learning. Based on the constructivist view, learners construct their own knowledge and understanding of the world through experiences things and reflecting on those experiences. Constructivist learning is based on students' active participation in problem-solving and critical thinking regarding a learning activity which they find relevant and engaging. Learners construct the knowledge by testing ideas and approaches based on the prior knowledge and experience which then applying them to a new situation, and integrating the new knowledge gained with pre-existing intellectual constructs. In constructivism, there are two types of constructivist learning theory. Both are explained as follows.
According to Phillips (1995), there are three main features of constructivist students, which are active, social, and creative. Research has shown that through active learning may allow student to remember and understand the lessons better and be able to use the knowledge gained actively. Social learning is said to usually foster learning that is creativity, while learning to learn to motivate students and enable students to understand the lessons better. (Perkins, 1999). This is correspond with the opinion of Confrey (1990) which states that a student is aware of at least some of constructivist knowledge construction process and can change the process through students own conscious.
THE PRINCIPLES OF CONSTRUCTIVISM
Students learn by fitting new information together with what the students already know. Learning is affected by the context in which an idea is taught as well as by students' beliefs, attitudes and idea. The following points will be discuss is the principles of constructivism. There are eight principles addressed in this discussion. Each of the principles is discussed as follows.
This means that the learning and teaching process in the classroom are not anymore focus on the teacher where teacher in some case, teacher just teach while the students just listen, but emphasise more on students which involves students with the classroom activity for example like conducting an experiment where students are involved in the activity.
Learning occurs through the application of knowledge.
Learning is not just rather depends on reading to learn something, learning occurs through experiences. Hands-on approach and real life experience are the example that can be used. This is corresponds to what constructivism means where students gains knowledge and understanding of the world through experiences things and reflecting on those experiences.
Learning occurs through interactions with others - Scaffolding.
To construct knowledge, students cannot just depend on reading to learn something. Through interaction with much more experiences person such as Scaffolding, the interaction with much more experienced person in this process of scaffolding engaging the learner to learn something new with a better understanding.
Students develop knowledge that meaningful to them.
In this context, students construct their own knowledge better if it attracts their interest. This means the development of knowledge increase where the knowledge is meaningful to them.
New learning is depending on the existing knowledge.
According to constructivism, students construct knowledge based on existing knowledge though experiences then reflecting on those experiences. They "constructing" their own knowledge by testing ideas and approaches based on their prior knowledge and experience, applying these to a new situation
Social interaction helps in learning.
This mean that through interaction, for example students with the teacher, the interaction that occur between them in the classroom will helps the students in learning.
Meaningful learning occurs based on real tasks.
Apply real task through experience, the learning process become much more meaningful to the learners. For example, if learn about animals, it is better to show the real animal to them by taking them to the zoo. This how the learning become meaningful because they can see, touch and feel what they learn.
Teacher acts as a facilitator.
Teacher functions as facilitator that guides the students to learn. They provide guidance and hint to the learner so the learner then can constructs their knowledge by their own. This also can be seen through ZPD zone where teacher just guide and let the learner learn by constructing their own prior knowledge and experience.
ROLES OF TEACHER AND PUPILS IN CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNING ACTIVITIES
The roles of the teacher in classroom learning are very important. Based on the constructivism theory, the understanding and knowledge of a person are constructed through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. In this case, teacher and pupils must work together in order to let pupils to construct the knowledge and understanding by themselves through range of activities carried out in the classroom.
Roles of teacher in constructivist learning activities
Teacher acts as a facilitator.
In addition, teachers play important role in the process of interactions. According to constructivist view, children’s thinking develops through social interaction. Teacher acts as a facilitator for the pupils in providing scaffolding, give direction and provide a good feedback. The pupils receive help from the teacher that enables them to complete tasks that they cannot complete independently. Scaffolding is provided by knowledgeable person and this may be the teachers or other skilled person in the classroom. A meaningful social interaction occurs when the pupils interact with a more knowledgeable person or a skilled person like a teacher. For example, during the teaching session, a teacher uses direct instruction to guide the pupils’ performances. When the pupils are able to understand less guidance is given. Dialogue and interaction with a skilled person are important tools during scaffolding. Additionally, a teacher should begin the guidance at the upper limit so that the pupils can achieve the goal with help. Teacher offers help when needed and gives support as well as motivation for the pupils to try. Therefore, turn the pupils to be independent learners thus discover and build the framework of knowledge by themselves.
Teacher gives encouragement to the pupils.
Teachers also must encourage the pupils with learning and reflection process. This enables the pupils to reflect on the experiences which will then help to create ideas and develop strong abilities to integrate new information. The encouragement that the teacher gives in classroom allows the pupils to construct knowledge actively rather than just depend on knowledge from the teacher or text books. The teacher also responsible in encourage the students thinking aloud. In this way students are able to reflect on their learning processes. Having an opportunity to present the ideas or thoughts as well as being permitted to hear and reflect on the ideas of others is an empowering experience. If the pupils do not understand and present the wrong ideas, the teacher should encourage the pupils to ask questions. The teacher then clarified the questions and start doing conversation with the pupils. Although the teacher might have the answers, the pupils are encouraged to discover the knowledge by asking questions. The communication among the pupils and teacher led to deeper understanding of the topics at hand.
Teacher encourages pupils’ inquiry
The next role of teacher in constructivist learning activities is encouraging pupils’ inquiry through posing questions and problems, then guide the pupils to find the answers. Complex, thoughtful questions challenge the pupils to look beyond apparent and to explore into issues deeply and broadly, and to form their own understanding of events or problems. Teacher must allow the pupils to interpret and making inference of the problems. Besides that, teacher can assist the pupils to work in groups and prompt the pupils to formulate their own questions. Teacher also seeks the pupils’ point of view in order to let the pupils generate thinking skills of certain concept and problems. Accordingly, this will help the pupils to learn how to learn.
Teacher uses cognitive terminology like ‘classify’, ‘analyse’, ‘predict’ and ‘create’.
Such words like ‘classify’, ‘analyse’, ‘predict’ and ‘create’ affect our thinking and our actions. Analysing, interpreting, predicting and synthesizing are mental activities that require pupils to make connections and inquire better understanding of certain concepts. For instance, teacher conducts an exploration activities on ‘how can we classify animals?’. The pupils are given different types of animals’ pictures and the teacher uses the term like ‘compare’ the animals in the pictures. It then proceeds to classify the animals according to different categories. Besides having the pupils to think and analysing the activities, teacher also triggers them to think of other animals related to the animals that they have grouped. And teachers ask the pupils questions like, predict or tell how they decided where each animal belongs. Framing tasks and such activities using those terms with pupils, fosters the construction of new understanding.
Roles of pupils in constructivist learning activities
Pupils are active learners
Firstly, in the constructivist learning activities, the pupils are assumed as active learners. According to Arend,(2007), learning is viewed not as passively receiving information from the teacher but rather as students actively engaging in relevant experiences and having opportunities for dialogue so that meaning can evolve and be constructed. The learners are active participants in knowledge acquisition and engage in restructuring the knowledge to make it meaningful, organized and permanent. The role of pupils is working actively together in groups so that social interaction can occur thus provide space to understand certain concepts. Additionally the active participation of the pupils creates new understanding and is able to solve simple problems. With the help of the teacher, the pupils have the chance to ask questions and to do explorations. Learning activities require full participations of the pupils where at the end of the lesson the pupils are able to reflect on and talk about the activities. This where the pupils gain the experiences in expressing the thoughts and ideas and thus grow new understanding of a particular knowledge.
Pupils are responsible over their own learning process
During the lesson conducted by a teacher in the classroom, the pupils are responsible over their own learning process. Pupils reflect on the experiences rather than sit and listen to the teacher’s lecture. This allows makes the pupils to become expert learners. In the constructivist learning activities the teacher helps to create activirties for the pupils to learn and feel free to question and reflect on their own ideas either in private or group discussions. This is where the teacher plays the role in creating activities that would lead the pupils to reflect on the prior knowledge and experiences. The pupils have to make a reflection on what was learned and how it was discovered is very important. The past experiences that the pupils have are then being constructed to the new one and thus learning is happening.
Pupils act as independent learner
In the constructivist learning classroom the pupils act as an independent learner. The pupils use inquiry techniques to ask questions, investigate a topic and use variety of sources to think of the solutions and answers. In the constructivist learning activities, the teacher will provide various activities related to problem solving.. Therefore, the pupils are encouraged to think by themselves and draw conclusions based on the activities. This consequently gives the pupils a space to learn independently and relate to the past experiences in order to solve the new ones. The teacher guides them in such a way, triggers the pupils with clues and open ended questions. As the pupils are able to think, the exploration is started. From the activities conducted, the pupils also able to draw conclusions and as the exploration continues, the pupils accordingly learn how to think and understand as well as continue to learn independently and are more likely to retain learning.
Pupils share own ideas and listen to the ideas of others
The role of pupils is sharing own ideas and listen to the ideas of others. Through the discussion and explorations in the classroom, the pupils must be able to give and express ideas and consider others’ ideas too. According to the constructivist theory, there are significant implications for peer collaborations. The teacher must provide space for the pupils to have a conversation, creating experience that is open to new direction upon the needs of the pupils as the learning progresses. Sharing ideas and thoughts enable the pupils to accept and think critically about the knowledge. Making errors and misconceptions are part of learning process. Sometimes the pupils may get the wrong ideas about a certain concept, therefore by listening to others’ thoughts the pupils can learn and might try to accept it. Sharing ideas with others also can exposed to wide range of thoughts as well as help develop intellect and social skills.
STRENGTHS AND WREAKNESSES OF THE CONSTRUCTIVISM THEORY
The strengths and weaknesses of the constructivism theory are discussed as follows.
Constructivism processes help students enjoy learning (from http:// adultededucation.wikibook.us/index.php?title=Constructivism). This is because when learning is a function of how information is mentally processed, and then students’ constructivism processes can be a major concern to educators. For example, the 5E principles which are engage, explore, explain, extend and evaluate, can be transformed into games such as amazing race. This will help students to enjoy, understand and remember the theory in a better way. Through the applications of games in teaching and learning, students have better understanding and learn to think more efficiently. Doolittle & Camp (1999) highlighted that teachers should serve as guides or facilitators of knowledge, learning environments should be authentic, lessons should be relevant to students, students should be encouraged to reflect upon what they learn, and students should be evaluated to discover their future educational needs. This shows that teaching students to learn constructively requires consideration by the teacher. Teachers should varieties their teaching method so that students would be able to think and construct new idea in a particular knowledge. For example, in science class, students are allowed to carry out the hypothesis before experiments begin. This can help students to think and curious of the result of the experiments.
Moreover, constructivism also can help in development of social and interpersonal skills of students (from http:// adultededucation.wikibook.us/index.php?title=Constructivism). This is because students would able to know how to think that can be applied to any skills in school or outside the school compound. Tolman’s concept of cognitive map, the Gestaltist concept of closure and Piaget’s concept of cognitive structure all involve constructing knowledge for oneself rather than absorbing it exactly as it has been presented. In this situation, the process of construction occurring separately within each learner, which reflecting a perspective known as individual constructivism. Through the theory of constructivism, individuals learn through exploration on their own, as well as through interactions with others (Carlson & Maxa, 1998). This proves that students can learn the skills of communication better in their life. Besides that, Doolittle & Camp (1999) also state that constructivism is used for teaching in vocational, agricultural, and career and technical education, as well as other disciplines. This shows that constructivism is useful in many fields which can develop the cognitive and interpersonal skills of the students. For instance, several students may form a study group when they have a difficult and confusing topic. So, by helping one another, they may be able to interpret and understand the topic in ways that they may not have been able to do on their own. This can reflect a perspective known as social constructivism. It means theories of learning that focus on how people work together, either at a single sitting or over the course of many years. Thus, through this, students will be open-minded in sharing their knowledge.
However, learners need a base of knowledge in constructivism theory. Since they are supposed to construct new knowledge from old knowledge they should have some prior exposure to the topic. For example, in a study group, students have to know well by of the specific topic so that they can explain and share the knowledge to the others. But, some critics say constructivism only works when students have an already existing interest in a topic. As a result, students may go to a different direction which is different with the intension of teachers. They may lose the concentration in class, thus will lead to the problem of getting bad result in examinations. Besides that, with all the group work and collaboration it may lead to "group think." Where the majority of the group is in charge. This is difficult to measure student success because standardized tests do not measure understanding. The teacher must evaluate differently and the powers that be might not like if the students receive lower scores on the tests. Teachers give up some power. They become more of a facilitator and mentor rather than the expert.
On the other hand, to work on the constructivism theory in the teaching and learning process in school is too demanding for the school budgets. This brings troublesome to the learners’ education. Students may have different levels of cognitive thinking; some are fast learner while some are slow learner. As a result, the educator may have difficulty to standardize their understanding towards a specific knowledge. For instance, students tend to forget the rules of grammar in English lesson. So, educators have to remind and give more exercises to them. Besides that, school board also facing the problem of insufficient facilities. They may abolish uniform assessment and evaluating system. There is also problem to monitor overall performance as it is not standardized grading system to be analyzed.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSTRUCTIVISM ON TEACHING AND LEARNING
Since learning is based on students-centred instead of teacher-centred, and often the students have a hand in designing the assessments as well. Children will learn more, and enjoy learning more when they are actively involved, rather than only be passive listeners. Education also works best when it concentrates on thinking and understanding, rather than memorization which are used by the previous generation teachers. Constructivism also promotes social and communication skills by creating a classroom environment that highlighting collaboration and exchange of ideas. For that reason, it brings positive impact on students’ learning performance and that these concepts will be discussed more in classroom.
THE IMPLICATIONS OF CONSTRUCTIVISM THEORY
For teachers to understand the theory of constructivism is very beneficial, however, it is evenly important for them to understand the significant of its implications. Students are the key of learning as constructivist approaches emphasis student-centred rather than teacher-centred curriculum and instruction. Thus, by adopting a constructivist approach during the teaching and learning process, there would be a big possibility that it could gains pupils’ interest and natural participation in learning activities. There are several implications of constructivism on teaching and learning process.
The first implication is students will actively participated in classroom activities. This implication occurs due to teachers method of teaching that engages students with many student-centred learning activities such as problems solving and group work. According to Jonassen (1996), learners must be given opportunities to be active in ways that will promote self-direction, creativity and critical analysis of problems. Students must be given chances to be active in learning which is essential in order for knowledge to be captured by the learners.
Forrest and Beverly (2004), argues that in constructivism, the learner use cognitive thinking to construct understanding of material to be learned. Constructivism theories of teaching and learning require teachers to act as a facilitator to help and guide students in becoming more active in their learning. This way of teaching help students to build a deep understanding on the topics that have been taught by teachers and their new obtained knowledge. Throughout knowledge acquisition, it leads the students to engage in restricting, manipulating, reinventing with knowledge to make it meaningful, organized and permanent. For example, a teacher assigned his students in a group discussion about certain topic. Group learning is vital as this assists them to see the relationship between prior knowledge and new knowledge as Davison, (1995) argues. The students are able to work in group to points out their ideas. Hence, this condition enhances students’ abilities to think creatively and critically which promotes higher level of thinking within them.
In addition, it also helps the learners, specifically students, to improve their interpersonal skills. Interpersonal skills are essential in developing well being individuals because it does not only referring to the ability to communicate with others but also includes cooperating, sharing, listening, and participating. These set of skills can be attained through classroom’s activities such as group activities, dialogues and presentations. Children are able to elaborate their own ideas and those of their peers as well. This means, indirectly, students use their peers as resources. In fact, Strommen and Lincoln (1992) states that constructivism has led to the additional discovery that powerful gains are made when children work together. Hence this condition creates opportunities for the process of allowing interaction that stimulates students’ knowledge and also improved their interpersonal skills.
Next implication of constructivism theory on teaching and learning is it helps to encourage students to become independent and initiative. Being independent in study or doing homework is very important for students to strive for excellence. This theory is obviously to make students know about how important education is. This theory also, is about teacher to get pupils motivated to explore their world and discover knowledge through their own effort. In class, teachers can give homework to their students. When it is time to discuss about the homework, the students are given the chance to commencing two way interactions. When the teacher and the learner interact with one another, they will get more enthusiastic to learn. They are also able to share their understanding and discovery about a new knowledge with others as the teacher aim is to draw the students own conclusion and form their own opinions. Plus, the teachers can add in more explanation to what his students have founded. This can give the student a clearer view of what they have learned.
Constructivism represents one of the big ideas in education. The implications of this learning theory on teaching and learning in the classroom are very compelling. Last but not least, it is not deniable that the role of the teacher as a guidance and facilitator to students is very important.
Constructivism is a theory about knowledge and learning. Learners construct their own knowledge and understanding of the world through experiences things and reflecting on those experiences. Learning is affected by the context in which an idea is taught as well as by students' beliefs, attitudes and idea. Teacher and pupils must work together in order to let pupils to construct the knowledge and understanding by themselves through range of activities carried out in the classroom. Teacher acts as a facilitator for the pupils in providing scaffolding, give direction and provide a good feedback. Teachers also must encourage the pupils with learning and reflection process. Framing tasks and such activities using those terms with pupils, fosters the construction of new understanding. The learners are active participants in knowledge acquisition and engage in restructuring the knowledge. The pupils are responsible over their own learning process. Constructivism processes help students enjoy learning and develop social and interpersonal skills.
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