The purpose of this presentation is to define and describe the social constructivist theory of learning. Specifically, the Professional Learning Community will be used as an example of the application of Vygotsky’s social constructivism. A discussion of Piaget’s cognitive constructivism is included for comparison and to highlight the concepts of adaptation, assimilation and accommodation in learning. The first few slides of this presentation define and describe the Professional Learning Community (PLC). Constructivism will be defined followed by a discussion of the main goals of PLCs as defined by DuFour (2003).. PLCs originally developed from the work of Peter Senge, a systems theorist who worked with learning organizations(Feger & Arruda, 2008). It is beyond the scope of this presentation to relate a detailed account of Senge’s work. However, some mention of the central themes of his work is important and will be discussed as they relate to constructivist theory. This will occur later in the presentation. A review of constructivist theory follows the description of PLCs. PLCs are then appraised in terms of constructivist theory. The last portion of the presentation provides a review and links the purpose and goals of The Professional Learning Community with constructivist thought. The presentation will conclude with suggestions for further application of PLCs. The objectives of the presentation are:Participants will be able to describe a Professional Learning CommunityParticipants will be able to describe constructivismParticipants will be able to summarize the purpose and goals of a Professional Learning Community. Participants will be able to state at lest 3 characteristics of PLCs and how they demonstrate constructivist theory. Re record
The Professional Learning Community (PLC) is a community of practice that borrows from Peter Senge’s work on learning organizations (Hord, 2003) as mentioned earlier. PLCs also have roots in the Community of Practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). (See the handout for more info about Communities of Practice). Professional Learning Communities are based on the idea that educators can learn from each other through collaborative effort promoting the growth and development of the professional group and individual members. PLCs encourage members to examine their practice, reflect together on what works and what does not, and try out new strategies. Practices that define a PLC include active participation of the members, a shared vision, and a supportive culture that allows the community to work together to identify and resolve issues (Feger & Arruda, 2008). All of this is for the construction and sharing of new knowledge within the professional group. (Lieberman & Miller, 2011) Of course the goal and measureable result of the PLC is improved student achievement. The American Federation of Teachers (Muirhead, 2009) and the National Staff Development Council (Feger & Arruda, 2008) encourage Professional Learning Communities as a strategy for improving education.
DuFour (2003) identified three Big Ideas that guide the work of Professional Learning Communities, they are:• A focus on learning – Learning is found in the routine practices of the school according to DuFour. This is powerful when teachers meet in grouped teams and are allowed the time to focus on student achievement. • A Collaborative culture – DuFour feels that the work of a collaborative culture is best demonstrated through measureable, result oriented goals. • Professional Learning Communities are results focused – As mentioned previously, student achievement should be the measure of the success of the PLC. The one theme that seems to flow through the literature re: Professional Learning Communities is collaboration (DuFour, 2003 ; Hord, 2003, Liebernam & Miller, 2011). There are two main theories that ground PLCs, Situated Theory and Social Constructivist Theory. We will look at these two theories in the next set of slides.
Most of the literature related to PLCs is grounded in social learning theory. One social learning theory is the Situated Theory of Lave & Wenger (1991) that is frequently cited as a grounding theory and this will be discussed in more detail in the next slide. Situated Theory was developed from Vygotsky’s theory of social constructivism. Social constructivism examines how an individual assimilates ideas in turn transforms those ideas into things (stories, skills, practices, and etc.) that can be shared in a group. This in turn leads to the development of a culture of professional learning. (Feger & Arruda, 2008). In other words, knowledge that is created/changed/transformed into practice that is then shared with group members is the starting place for a Professional Learning Community. Social constructivism will be explored in more detail in the slide following Situated Theory.
Lave & Wegner (1991) developed a theory of learning constructed from apprenticeship models called situated theory. The apprenticeship model still exists today in professions such as plumbing and electrical work where an apprentice learns from an experienced master. Situated theory analyzes learning and the social situations in which it occurs. Professional Learning Communities are an example of a social situation in which learning occurs. Lave & Wegner (1991) are not that concerned with the cognitive process of learning. They focus more on learning as social co-participation. The context in which learning occurs is of prime importance to Lave & Wenger. The learner does not get a bunch of “book sense” that can be later applied. Rather the learner gains the skills required by actual hands on work under the watchful eye of a more skilled person (apprenticeship). It is easy to see how this can be applied in the Professional Learning Community. One of the goals of the PLC is to increase the knowledge of the group by sharing of information. The information has to be storable or an artifact which is also a requirement In Vygotsky’s social constructivism (Feger & Arruda, 2008). As mentioned earlier, Situated theory developed from constructivist theory which will be described next.
Constructivism is an epistemology. That means that constructivism is a study of the nature of knowledge or how it is that we come to know what we know. (Kretchmar, 2008). Constructivism’s epistemological stance is that people create knowledge andmeaning through their interactions with the environment and each other (Kim, 2001). There are two modes of epistemological thought. One is that the external world is a reality that exists independently of us and our knowledge is an approximation of that reality. In other words, reality is our best guess. The other camp says that knowledge does not exist until the individual constructs it from their experiences in the world (Kretchmar, 2008). In other words, reality is our best guess based on our interactions with the world. This presentation is concerned with the latter definition. People create their own realities (Kim, 2001). So two people may look at the same thing but not see it in the same way. The fact that people see the same thing differently is behind the dynamic of contention. What is important and often overlooked is how knowledge and meaning is actually created in constructivist theory. For new knowledge to be constructed there has to be a cognitive conflict (Kretchmar, 2008) or contention (Graham, 2007). Contention is disagreement. We will look at this a little more closely later in the presentation. There are two main branches of constructivism, Piaget's cognitive constructivism and Vygotsky's social constructivism. We will look at each in the next two slides and a brief example of constructivism will follow.
Piaget is credited with the original work in constructivism. His is more of a developmental theory than theory of learning. Piaget was a biologist andintroduced the concept of adaptation into learning. Basically he showed that knowledge is not necessarily reflective (the result of) of some external reality but is true to that reality as long as it is adaptive....or helpful in accomplishing a task or goal (Kretchmar, 2008). Now, we get to the idea of cognitive conflict mentioned earlier. In order for new knowledge to be constructed there has to be a cognitive conflict or area of contention (disagreement). This contention of disagreement can occur internally (cognitive dissonance) or externally (debate, discussion). Piaget explained the process of knowledge creation via his concepts of assimilation and accommodation. Learning occurs from a desire to maintain equilibrium (Prouix, 2006). We assimilate knowledge when that knowledge fits in well with what we already know. However, when prior knowledge is contradicted by new information, conflict is created andthe person is motivated to adapt in order to return to the state of equilibrium. Accommodation occurs then when we encounter contradictory information that challenges what we already know. We have to change what we know to accommodate the new information. In other words, learning occurs because we have had to adapt or construct new meaning to accommodate new information (Kretchmar, 2008; Prouix, 2006).
Vygotsky- disagreed with Piaget that learning could be separated from its social context (“Theories of learning”, 2011). Vygotsky believed that cognitive functions are products of social interactions; culture and context are equally important (”Theories of learning”, 2011; Feger & Arruda, 2008; Horton, 2008). He emphasized the role of language and culture in cognitive development and believed they are the means for experiencing, communicating about, and understanding reality (“Theories of learning”, 2011). Language and social schemes are social phenomena transmitted via language (“Theories of learning”, 2011; Horton, 2008). So knowledge is not just constructed, it is socially co-constructed. Vygotsky did agree with Piaget that learners do not respond to external stimuli but to their interpretation of stimuli (“Theories of learning”, 2011). Conceptualization is impossible without language (Horton, 2008). Kim (2001) identifies three main assumptions of social constructivismReality- This goes back to what was said earlier in the presentation. People construct reality through their activity and experiences. Reality does not exist prior to it’s invention through social activity. Knowledge- Knowledge is also a product that is socially and culturally constructed. People create meaning through their interactions with the environment and each other. Learning- Learning is a social process. Learning is meaningful when it is occurs as individuals are engaged in social activities.
Example of cognitive constructivism. Prior to 1543, the generally held belief was that the earth was the center of the Universe. This was the constructed knowledge at the time. People saw the stars and planets arc across the sky and the sun rose and set. This belief was backed by the major religious institution of the time, the Catholic Church, citing the Bible as authority. In 1543 Copernicus’ theories were finally published. Copernicus through observation and mathematics determined that the earth was not the center of things and that the earth and planets circled the sun. This created a cognitive conflict or degree of contention. Therefore, thinking had to be changed to accommodate the new information, that is, new knowledge was created. This is an example of Constructivism. Prior knowledge from experience said that the earth was the center of the universe. Copernicus challenges this prior knowledge with his discovery that the sun is the center of the universe. This turns thinking on it’s head because man is no longer the center of creation. Prior knowledge had to be deconstructed and reconstructed. In other words, new knowledge was created (Rabin, 2010). Picture: http://yfaenza.wordpress.com.2012/04/22/why-do-we-do-science-galileos-answer-according-to-brecht/
Hord (2003), Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, and Thomas (2006), DuFour (2003), Muirhead, (2009) and Liberman & Miller (2011) have all identified various characteristics of PLCs. For purposes of this presentation those characteristics identified by Hord (2003) will be described. These are: Leadership is supportive and sharedThere is shared vision and values.Shared practice. Conditions supportive of a learning communityCollective creativityThe next 5 slides will define each characteristic as identified by Hord (2003) and begin to link each to constructivist theory.
Leadership is supportive and shared – power structures need to change so that all members of the team are playing for the same team and working as colleagues. The playing field has to be level in order to achieve the goals of the the PLC. The current power structure in schools dictates that the Principal is the fearless leader who has no need for professional development. The staff are viewed as not having enough knowledge to contribute to decision making. This previous hierarchy that dictated teachers teach and administrators manage is changing resulting in more collegial relationships(Hord, 2003). PLCs just do not happen. Four stages of community formation have been identified:Formation of group identity and interaction norms – Weber (2011) states that lack of norms is is a cause of dysfunction within PLCs. When teams have established norms the team knows how to communicate with each other and how shared decisions will be treated. These are akin to the ground rules created by special project teams in business that also dictate when meetings will start and stop, and rules for dialogue. As has been discussed dialogue is an important activity in the social construction of knowledge/meaning. Navigation of fault lines – This seems to be similar to the development of goals. With goals the PLC can determine if the community is on target with its goals or not. If not then revisiting the goals to re-establish purpose is suggested. Good goals also enhance trust (Weber, 2011). Negotiation – Implies communication, something that will not happen without established norms and goals (Weber, 2011)Development of communal responsibility for individual growth – this is also a requirement for Community of practice as defined by Wenger.Leadership is important in community formation and is needed to validate the work of the teams. Leadership should foster collaboration in order for knowledge to be built (Feger & Arruda (2008). One thing they should not do is allow teachers to opt out of the community according to Feger & Arruda (2008). However Feger & Arruda (2008) are quick to add that some studies have shown that PLCs are viewed more positively when membership is voluntary.
There is shared vision and values – This characteristic of the PLC is mentioned by several authors. Muirhead (2009) states a shared vision is needed between teachers and principals in order for them to work together to build trust within their schools. Lieberman and Miller (2011) point out that a collective focus and clear purpose is needed to work on problems of practice. Hord (2003) states that a shared vision leads to the behavioral norms that bind the team together. As mentioned earlier developing norms is one of the first steps in creating a learning community. One of Vygotsky’s tenets is that we learn language through interaction and conceptualization is impossible without it (Horton, 2008). The sharing of vision and values in the PLC is a language dependent activity. It is also a collaborative activity and through collaboration (social interaction) something (vision and values) is produced that could not have been produced by people working in isolation (Horton, 2008). So by peers working together to develop a shared vision something unique is developed that also defines the community. Kim (2001) calls the activity of shared understanding as intersubjectivity. Interaction that is based in common interests that form the common ground for communication. This common ground allows for shared understanding of new information among group members. Common ground or a passion fro the subject can lead to the development of a Community of Practice.
Shared personal practice – this is an important interaction between the staff for the sharing of skills and knowledge that students need to be successful (Muirhead, 2009). This is really a peer review system. By sharing their practices, the staff open themselves up to review by their peers. The result is further collaboration and the development of mutual respect that supports community and individual improvement (Hord, 2003). It should be noted that a great deal of trust is required in order for a person to open himself or herself up to the review by peers. PLCs by their nature result in higher levels of trust (Cowan, 2000).
Conditions that support maintenance of a learning community-this pertains to physical capacities such as size of the group, physical setting, when and how often to meet. People capacities include such things as being able to give and receive feedback. An appropriate knowledge and skill base is needed as well (Hord, 2003).
Collective creativity-As mentioned earlier, PLC developed from Peter Senge’s work in learning organizations. This thought was picked up by the education community and the term “ learning organization” became “learning community” (Hord, 2003). The learning community can be seen at work when people from all levels of the organization (school) work together collaboratively. These groups engage in reflective dialogue to identify issues (Hord, 2003). Remember that Vygotsky identified language as a requirement for social learning.The activity of a person skilled in one area mentoring a less skilled member of the community is an example of collective creativity.
The focus on learning is not just confined to students. This includes learning of the individuals in the community and learning of the group as a whole through social activity.
Feger & Arruda (2008) conclude in their review of PLC literature that evaluation studies of PLC are limited. The authors suggest that rigorous research is needed.
CowanDuFour, R. (2003, May). Building a professional learning community. The School Administrator.Retrieved from www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=9190. Feger, S. &Arruda, E. (2008). Professional learning communities: Key themes from the literature. Retrieved fromwww.alliance.brown.edu/pubs/pd/pbs_plc_lit_review.pdf Graham, P. (2007, January 22). The Role of Conversation, Contention, and Commitment in a Professional Learning Community. Retrieved from the Connexions Web site: http://cnx.org/content/m14270/1.1/Hord, S. (2003). Professional learning communities: Communities of continuous inquiry and improvement. Austin, TX; Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. Horton, S.L. (2008). Lev goes to college: Reflections on implementing Vygotsky’s ideas in higher education. The International Journal of Learning, 4. 13-17. Kim, B. (2001). Social Constructivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching and technology. Retrieved 2/8/2013 from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/Kretchmar, J. (2008). Constructivism: Educational theory>constructivism. Research Starters Education. Toledo, OH; Great Neck Publishing. Lave & Wenger, E.Lieberman, A. & Miller, L. (2011). Learning communities: The starting point for professional learning is in schools and classrooms. Journal of Staff Development, 4. 16-20. Muirhead, B. (2009). Professional learning communities. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2. 45-51.Newcomb, A. (2003, May). Peter Senge on organizational learning. The School Administrator . Retrieved 2/25/2013 from http://www.aasa.org/SchoolAdministratorArticle.aspx?id=9192. Prouix, J. (2006). Constructivism: A re-equilibration and clarification of the concepts, and some potential implications for teaching and pedagogy. Radical Pedagogy, (7)1 Retrieved from……Rabin, Sheila, "Nicolaus Copernicus", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2010 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2010/entries/copernicus/>.Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, and Thomas (2006)University of California Berkeley, Graduate Division Home, Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center. (2011). Theories of learning: Social constructivism. Retrieved 2/8/2013 from gsi.berkeley.edu/teachingguide/theories/social.html. Weber, 2011
Professional Learning Community BRIAN EIGELBACH E D U C 8 1 0 1 : H O W A D U LT S L E A R N : T H E O RY A N D R E S E A R C H F E B R U A RY , 2 0 1 3 D R . M A R I LY N W E L L S What is this? Click on this icon for an audio explaining the slide.
Professional Learning CommunityThe goal of a Professional Learning Community is to createa collaborative culture in the school focused on learning inorder to increase student achievement .(Feger & Arruda, 2008; Muirhead, 2009;Lieberman & Miller, 2011)
The Big Ideas of Professional Learning Organizations.THE FOCUS IS ON LEARNINGT H E R E I S A C O L L A B O R AT I V EC U LT U R EP L C S A R E R E S U LT SFOCUSED
Theories that ground Professional Learning Communities• W E N G E R ’ S T H E O RY O F S I T U AT E D LEARNING. VYGOTSKY’S–SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVISM
Situated Theory SITUATED THEORY ANALYZES LEARNING AND THE SOCIALSITUATION IN WHICH IT OCCURS.
CONSTRUCTIVISM CONSTRUCTIVISM IS A THEORY OFLEARNING IN WHICH THE LEARNER CREATES KNOWLEDGE.
Piaget’s Cognitive Constructivism PIAGET CONTRIBUTED THE CONCEPTS OF ASSIMILATION AND ACCOMMODATION TO LEARNING.
Vygotsky’s Social Constructivism VYGOTSKY MADE LEARNING ASOCIAL ACTIVITY THAT RELIED ON CONTEXT AND CULTURE.
Constructivism ExampleConstructivism atits finest. Nicolaus Copernicus 1473 – 1543
Characteristics of Professional Learning Communities• LEADERSHIP IS SUPPORTIVE AND SHARED THERE IS SHARED VISION AND VALUES . SHARED PRACTICE. CONDITIONS SUPPORTIVE OF A LEARNING COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE CREATIVITY
Characteristics of Professional Learning Communities LEADERSHIP IS SUPPORTIVE AND SHARED“…RETHINKING TRADITIONAL PATTERNS OFLEADERSHIP AND INTERACTION WILL RESULT INLONG-TERM SKILLS THAT PRODUCE ALEARNING COMMUNITY.” PETER SENGE(NEWCOMB, 2003, ¶ 9)
Characteristics of Professional Learning Communities THERE IS SHARED VISION AND VALUES.“ONLY BY CHANGING HOW WE INTERACT CANSHARED VISIONS…BE ESTABLISHED.” PETERSENGE (NEWCOMB, 2003, ¶ 9)
Characteristics of Professional Learning Communities SHARED PRACTICE.BY SHARING THEIR PRACTICES, THE STAFFOPEN THEMSELVES UP TO REVIEW BY THEIRPEERS (HORD, 2003).
Characteristics of Professional Learning Communities CONDITIONS SUPPORTIVE OF A LEARNING COMMUNITY“…THE MOST AN EDUCATIONAL PROCESS CANDO IS PROVIDE TOOLS AND METHODS ANDSETTINGS IN WHICH CHILDREN CANBECOMEBETTER AT THINKING THINGS THROUGH ANDCONSTRUCTING THEIR OWN UNDERSTANDING.”PETER SENGE (NEWCOMB, 2003, ¶ 9)
Characteristics of Professional Learning Communities• COLLECTIVE CREATIVITY
Review: Professional Learning CommunityIN REVIEW, A PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITY:• IS BASED ON THE IDEA THAT EDUCATORS CAN LEARN FROM EACH OTHER.• REQUIRES COLLABORATION.• CONSTRUCTS AND SHARES NEW KNOWLEDGE WITHIN THE PROFESSIONAL GROUP.• IS RESULTS FOCUSED.• IS A GROUP OF MEMBERS WITH A SHARED PRACTICE AND THE GOAL OF IMPROVING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.
Review: The Purpose and Goals of a Professional Learning CommunityTHE GOALS OF THE PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITYINCLUDE:• THE CREATION OF A CULTURE OF COLLABORATIVE EDUCATORS WHO LEARN FROM EACH OTHER.• A FOCUS ON LEARNING WITHIN THE PROFESSIONAL GROUP.• INCREASING STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT.
Review: What is ConstructivismCONSTRUCTIVISM IS:• AN EPISTEMOLOGY OR THE STUDY OF KNOWLEDGE AND HOW LEARNING OCCURS.• A THEORY THAT IS SITUATION/CONTEXT DEPENDENT.• THE CREATION OF KNOWLEDGE THROUGH INTERACTION WITH EACH OTHER.• THE CREATION OF MEANING THROUGH INTERACTION WITH THE ENVIRONMENT.• CONSTRUCTION OF STORABLE KNOWLEDGE THAT RELIES ON LANGUAGE AS A SOCIAL ARTIFACT.
Review: How the Professional Learning Community Demonstrates Constructivist Theory.CONSTRUCTIVIST THEORY IS EVIDENT IN PROFESSIONALLEARNING COMMUNITIES IN THAT:• PLCS ARE BUILT ON THE IDEA THAT A GROUP OF PROFESSIONALS CAN COME TOGETHER TO LEARN FROM EACH OTHER.• PLCS ARE DEPENDENT UPON CONTEXTUAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AND INDIVIDUAL INTERACTION.• PLCS ARE DEPENDENT ON CULTURE, IN THIS CASE A COLLABORATIVE CULTURE.• PLCS DO NOT JUST CONSTRUCT KNOWLEDGE, THEY SOCIALLY CO-CONSTRUCT KNOWLEDGE.
Suggested application of constructivism through PLCs