BY: CHRISTOPHER CROSBY
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Piaget observed that children learn in a very different way than adults. He discovered four
stages of learning that children go through.
1. Sensorimotor – learning which takes place through a child’s senses and motor actions.
2. Preoperational – learning when children begin to use symbols and images.
3. Concrete Operational – when children begin to think logically understand facts. Usually
around age 7.
4. Formal Operational – when children transition from concrete thinking into abstract
thinking. Usually around age 12.
Piaget also had three different classifications of how children formulate their knowledge.
• Adaptation – children create their cognitive understanding at any given time.
• Assimilation – children assimilate new knowledge as they experience new things.
• Accommodation – children use experiences to change their knowledge base.
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Bruner proposed that learners construct new ideas upon their previous knowledge. He said
that learning is an active process.
Bruner’s constructivist theory provides a framework for instruction based on the study of
cognition. The idea that an individual progresses through different stages of intellect
allows for a unique way of building information upon itself.
Following this line, Bruner felt that the role of a teacher was to simply encourage the
students to discover and challenge their own line of thinking using the Socratic method.
Basically, the responsibility of learning is on the student. Teachers are tools to help
students to advance and build their knowledge bank.
Bruner’s idea of students continually building on what they know is regarded as spiral
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Vygotsky discovered the idea of social cognition. He believed that children learn differently
based on their social environment. This was mainly backed up with the scenario that
children learn to recognize different sounds as language based on where they grow up.
The idea of a zone of proximal development was proposed by Vygotsky and was defined as
the difference between how an individual can learn on their own versus how they could
learn when using a more advanced for of aid, like a teacher. The idea of blending
together an advanced aid with personal ability is called collaborative learning.
Vygotsky believed that teachers should discover the ability of each student and then
challenge them accordingly so that that can build learning experiences from that point.
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Like Vygotsky, Dewey believed that learning was mainly fueled by social interaction. On
perhaps a larger scale, Dewey believed that school was an extension of society and that
each student should actively be involved. Students were expected to work
collaboratively to push each other to learn in different ways.
On the same brainwave as our other key figures, Dewey thought that learning was student
directed with teachers merely being a guide or resource.
Another of Dewey’s main lines of thought towards education was that students mainly learn
by doing. He felt students should be free to interact and construct freely to advance
their thought process. In fact, the idea of pragmatism stems from Dewey’s idea of this.
Pragmatism being that theories only have value when they are proven, or applied.
• Students learn best by doing a variety of
activities and participating in active
learning where students construct new
knowledge based off what they already
• Learning is influenced by social
development therefore students work in
groups where questions are welcomed.
• Constructivism creates independent and
motivated learners with critical thinking
• Constructivist theory is all about
giving students the freedom to make
connections on their own
• Through numerous activities, students
will be learning a very strongly
integrated curriculum in different
• Today, with so much information
readily available, it is easier for
students to do just that
• Teacher and student work together as
partners and foster a mutual respect
for each other
Transitioning to a constructivist mindset may take
more adjustment for teachers than students
It does not dismiss the teacher’s responsibility to be
informed of their subject but requires a combination
of knowledge, common sense, strategy, and logic.
As an instructor, you relinquish some of your
authority as dispenser of information and instead
become more of a facilitator For your students’ own
Creating and/or sharing useful content to help enrich
rather than a simple lecture might be considered more
beneficial. Some examples might include:
Sharing useful links to videos and websites
Creating a classroom wiki and posting relevant class info
Doing a virtual tour or interactive Power Point activity
• As a student in a constructivist
classroom, more emphasis is put on your past
experiences and how they relate to what you
are learning currently
• Collaboration and group work are highly
valued, but individual growth is also
• Student familiarity with different
technologies could be seen as an opportunity
to use more of their own skills in order to
acquire new knowledge
• Students might be expected/encouraged to:
Form groups for discussion
Post to a classroom or student wiki
Use available web tools to create and share
Elaborate on past experiences
WHAT COURTNEY THINKS
Constructivism is a theory that should be used more often with younger children.
It enhances their ability to create and think for themselves. In some ways, this
can be helpful for Mathematics but it can also cause more problems than solve
them. If a student does not have the proper prior knowledge this could cause
the student to feel neglected and discourage them from learning the correct
material. While constructivism can provide students with phenomenal learning
skills, this could give students a lack of factual knowledge, which is also very
important. I do believe I will use this theory in my classroom in the future but I
will not be strict in my teaching. I believe using different theories is the best way
to reach all students.
WHAT ASHLEY THINKS
I agree with Constructivism that students learn best by doing hands on
activities. I feel that in my Math classroom this can be achieved by doing
labs with students that will require them to actively learn. For example a
lab on probability of getting brown M&M’s, the students will be required
to do a variety of tasks such as graph their findings, do arithmetic, and
write a conclusion. I feel that the Constructivist theory is a sure way to
keep students interested in learning in my class.
WHAT SARAH THINKS
The idea of constructivism is extremely important, especially with the new wave
of digital learners. In the past, it was mainly studied with children or young
adults. I believe this upcoming generation will bring a whole new side of learning
that will sync up with the idea of constructivism more than ever before. The
ability to build and discover their own kinds of knowledge however they find the
most useful will push students to learn in a constructive manner. I feel that
students will find themselves more curious than previous generations are
because creating and discovering will be so easy for them to do. Overall, I like the
idea of constructivism because it places more responsibility on the student to
personally crave a deeper sense of knowledge.
WHAT CHRIS THINKS
• While much of what we discuss in relation to constructivist theory can seem
radical or new, we should keep in mind that these ideas have been around for
a long time in one form or another if not under the name of “Constructivism”.
It basically encourages more student participation and hands on learning and
doesn’t have to be a huge shift for the educator. Constructivism is just a
theory, and as such a teacher can adapt the parts they feel work for them and
their particular subject.