November 22, 2013
Students learn how to think and
understand by actively constructing their
knowledge through participating in
experiences, and interacting
collaboratively with others.
Meta-concept: multiple schools of thought of
Constructivism Learning Theory
Common to all Constructivism perspectives is meaning
and understanding of new concepts and skills is…
Uniquely and actively constructed by each student
Based on student’s existing knowledge and experiences
Affected by the cultural context of which the knowledge was
Knowledge is an interpretation of reality and not a
Learner uses sensory input to construct meaning
Construction of meaning is multi-layered – constructing
meaning and systems of meaning
Learning is constructed by the mind
Learning is constructed by using language
Learning is constructed socially
Learning of facts is based on their
relevant context and environment,
not in isolation
Knowledge is the necessary structure for learning meaning a
Learning takes time – ponder, practice, and experiment
Motivation (in many forms) is necessary for learning and
activates the senses
Social constructivism focuses on the learning through
social interaction not by individual inquiry
Social Constructivism emphasizes larger role for the
teacher and peers in guiding the learning and less on
learning by individual discovery.
Culture passed on by adults provides the context for
Social Constructivism Theoretical Contributor Concepts:
education is active and interactive, child centered, learning is influenced and influences
society (context), teacher important in guiding children’s experimental learning, build
on students’ prior knowledge and interests to learn new knowledge
John Dewey - My Pedagogic Creed, 1987; Experience and Education 1938
Maria Montessori - Education for a New World, 1946
Jean Piaget - The Child and the Reality, 1976
Jerome Bruner – The Process of Education, 1960; Actual Minds Possible Worlds, 1980
Social Constructivism Founder:
Lev Vygotsky, Mind and Society, 1978
Modeling – step-by-step demonstration of how to perform skill,
procedure, analysis while explaining details and thought process
Scaffolding – teacher or peer provides learning assistance to a
student by building on the student’s existing knowledge and
helping them learn something they could not do on their own
Coaching - The teacher encourages, advises, provides
feedback, clarifies, helps articulate the students’
performance, and communication. Encourages students to
be autonomous learners.
Social interaction is the primary mechanism of cognitive reasoning
and language development
Speech and language development central role in learning
Speech and language development leads to more advanced
complex cognitive skills and abilities such as more abstract, and
Students develop higher cognitive abilities by engaging socially in
challenging and meaningful practical activities.
Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is where most
instruction should occur. The students has a limit to the
level of knowledge he or she can learn on his or her own.
When the teacher helps students learn beyond their
individual capacity they are in the - Zone of Proximal – the
range of tasks the student can perform with the help of the
teacher. This instructional support provided by the teacher
is called scaffolding.
It is recommended to assess students’ ZPD before teaching
the lesson in order to gear lessons to ZPD.
One scaffolding technique is demonstrate a skill or task and
then see if student can repeat it. Or start it again and see if
the student can complete it. Other students can also take on
a peer/teacher role and the advanced student can guide
another student to learn the skill or concept .
Pose problems that are relevant to students. Example: in
government/history class set up email discussions, guided
questions, with a school in another state or country.
Essential concept learning – start with the “whole” and
break into parts. Example: Big idea of diversity and
variation – research and discuss historical immigration in
the U.S. Assign immigrant actor roles to students and have
them prepare perspective and act out.
Pay attention to student point of view reflects how they
reason. Example – Discuss government funding priorities
and stress evidence for viewpoint is the most important, not
what they belief.
Discussions: Reader and Writer workshops,
Controversial/Topical issues, What if scenarios, shared film
Projects – collaborative group or individual
Presentations in different formats: art, video, PowerPoint,
Materials: raw data,
primary sources, interactive,
Cooperative Learning Groups are structured social learning groups
Specify instructional objectives
Keep group sizes small 2 to 5
Assign students to groups or let students choose group members
Assign group roles i.e. facilitator, recorder, summarizer, elaborator, time
Assign tasks – for example researching and presenting information about a
Explain rubric expectations
Group members expected to explain their results with evidence
Practice team work behaviors before starting
Monitor group behavior, intervene and assist as necessary to keep on task and
Provide closure to groups through summarization
Teacher reflects on effectiveness
Encourages higher level thinking
Actively engaged learners
Offers differentiated instruction to all
Higher retention of learned material
Gain in confidence of learner
Development of problem solving
Encourages diversity of thought
mix of other theories, no one clear
learner must have a higher level of
self-management/ maturity for
encourages diversity of thought
where conformity is required
Visual Learners: Social constructivism lessons should include a
variety of visual instructional methods for teacher and students to
learn and present new knowledge. Visual activities include
interpreting videos, art photographs, 3-D models, diagrams,
graphs, graphic organizers, tables etc.
Auditory Learners: fundamentally social constructivism strives to
effectively use oral language to articulate and clarify the
complexity and specific nature of knowledge and ideas through
discussions, presentations, debate, play acting, etc.
Kinesthetic Learners: social constructivism ideally employs
kinesthetic activities to solidify learning by having student learn
by doing and demonstrate knowledge learned through a variety
of activities such as creating models, art, videos, music,
demonstrations, play acting, simulations, games, etc.
Social constructivism teaching is applicable for
elementary, middle school and secondary school
Most important is that students are mature enough to
work collaboratively with peers on common goals.
The teacher can guide students to practice teamwork
explaining the importance of listening to everyone in
the group, defining responsibilities, valuing each
person's gifts, modeling excellence, and promoting
Ask a student or group to solve a problem and explain and give
evidence for their answer Example: after studying animals and their
habitats students could be presented with a few new animals and the
students would describe what these animals would need to survive in
their habitats – i.e. protection from predators, food sources, protection
from weather, etc.
Document learning through diaries, journals or a graphic organizers.
Use a graphic organizer to classify cause and effects. Example:
students discuss their research on causes and effects of the U.S. Civil
Assign students to create problem-solving scenarios: Example: After
studying characteristics of cities, students could create their own city
and describe how they would provide food, housing, transportation,
schools, healthcare etc. for a given population demographics.
Students could be given a budget, and costs of community features.
Mooney, Carol G. 2000. Theories of Childhood: An Introduction to
Dewey, Montessori, Erickson, Piaget & Vygotsky, Upper Saddle River,
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