Constructivism

Constructivism is an appealing pedagogical theory for a philosopher, and it is noteworthy that its history has been traced back to the Socratic dialogue. I believe that motivation is the single biggest factor in learning, and finding solutions to real-life problems is a significant source of motivation. Through its emphasis on real-life problems, inquiry-based learning, and collaborative work, the constructivist approach is far more likely to engage students, and encourage them to own their learning. The sorts of transferable skills that constructivist methods develop will be more useful to students at higher levels of education and in the workplace.

Having said that, I believe that implementation of a constructivist approach requires good planning and experienced teaching. One of the criticisms of Constructivism is that it neglects traditional skills. I believe it is up to the teacher to ensure that traditional skills are acquired in school, even if a constructivist ethos prevails in the classroom. Students will still be judged by their literacy and/or numeracy skills in the upper levels of education and in the workplace.

Web 2.0 is well suited to a constructivist pedagogy. In fact, it is almost a perfect embodiment of it. Web 1.0 gave people unprecedented access to a staggering amount of information. Web 2.0 allows them to interact with this information in ever more creative ways – linking to it, adding to it, discussing it, and so on. Moreover, it does so in a collaborative way. Wikipedia is perhaps the best example of this, with people reading, creating and modifying content in the main article pages, and often hotly debating the content and justifying their editorial choices on the related article talk-pages.

Blogs are another good example of a Web 2.0 technology that embody the constructivist paradigm. In the classroom, blogs can be a way of conveying information, garnering feedback, checking comprehension, encouraging debate, inculcating multiliteracies, and so on. I also believe that students are far more likely to engage with this technology after school hours. If the technology is used wisely, ‘homework’ may lose its dire reputation, and students might look forward to going home to continue projects that were begun during the day.

I see no point in sticking with a pedagogy that was developed during the information-impoverished Industrial Revolution: books were scarce and schools were places where knowledge could be acquired from expert teachers. We live in an era when even children can access vast amounts of information. The role of the teacher must become the constructivist one of mentor and facilitator, ensuring that students acquire the critical skills necessary to negotiate this 21st-century world.

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7 Responses to “Constructivism”

  1. meredithgreen Says:

    Hello Simon, (I can’t find the soundbite button, so you will have to add the intonation yourself)

    For a change I completely agree with what you are saying. Using web 2.0 tools in the classroom is the first time I have been able to envision social constructivist pedadgogies really working effectively in the classroom. If we (that is me and other digital natives) can apply web 2.0 tools to lessons designed around social constructivist pedagogies I think we are half way there. The rest of the trip will require us to be open to the questions and topics students are motivated by. I sometimes think students may be becoming fatigued by the usual suspects used as motivating topics in classrooms, such as ‘the environment’. This of course may be just me, but I do wonder whether as well as keeping up with the technology we have a challenge in being open to the questions that motivate students.

    Meredith

  2. simonkidd Says:

    Thanks Meredith – agreement from you is like a snowman in Australia … a marvel, and yet ephemeral. By the way, I assume this is the intonation you meant …

  3. Mark Pegrum Says:

    Good point about it being time to move away from Industrial Era (or for that matter, Medieval) pedagogies – and even if we don’t totally abandon older approaches, it’s certainly time to complement them with more contemporary approaches. You’re spot on with Wikipedia – as we’ll discuss this week, it’s often seen as the ‘web 2.0 prodigy’ … with all that entails!

  4. Ross Says:

    Like Meriderth i too agree with you. You comments on blogs being a useful homework tool is where i think they are most benefical. However, I’m not sure ‘homework’ will ever lose its dire reputation!!!

  5. Matt Outred Says:

    I like your hearkening back to the Industrial Revolution, because it seems to me like maybe there recently was (and perhaps still is) this mindset that technology couldn’t possibly replace books. Technology enhances books and acts as a stepping stone to reaching greater heights. The social constructivist aspect comes into it when kids can interactively extrapolate their experiences of a book – it’s much more than just reading, it’s imagining, explaining, interpreting, analysing, synthesising – all made much easier when ideas can be bounced bewtween each other.

    Oh, and Seinfeld – is that group based on social constructivist theory? I’d say is more social deconstructionist, but again – the four of them bounce their damning ideas off of one another.

  6. Mark Pegrum Says:

    What we have to remember is that books ARE a kind of technology – we just don’t think of them that way any more because, from our current point of view, they’re such an old and well-embedded technology. Research suggests that already the younger generation is seeing basic digital technologies the same way …

  7. Simon Kidd Says:

    Yes, and books themselves have undergone transformations: from manuscripts, to block printing, to movable type (mass production), to computer-assisted design …

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