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The effectiveness of constructivist and sociocultural theories in teaching

June 08, 2016; Accepted Date: July 01, 2016; Published Date: July 07, 2016 Citation: Dagar V, Yadav A 2016 Constructivism: A Paradigm for Teaching and Learning.

Arts Social Sci J 7: This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Our present education system emphasizes on preparing students for highly competitive standardized tests and overlooks the importance of fostering critical thinking skills in our students. The conventional teacher centric teaching learning process emphasizing on memorization is usually adopted across length and breadth of Indian schools.

Constructivism: A Paradigm for Teaching and Learning

This paper sketches the need to redefine education to include more critical thinking by adopting constructivist pedagogy. The paper also proposes the effectiveness of constructivist and sociocultural theories in teaching important aspects such as integration of social and emotional learning in learning process for adoption of constructivism in classrooms, besides this it also outlines the learning strategies and learning design required for successful implementation of constructivism in teaching learning process.

Keywords Constructivism; Zone of proximal development; Social and emotional learning Introduction Education involves the process of the development and learning of the child on multiple dimensions, facilitated by the teacher, who is guided by a curriculum. Effective education is a process where the teacher, children and the schools involved and participated actively [ 1 ].

Traditional teaching approach lecture method commonly adopted by teachers in Indian schools involves coverage of the context and rote memorization on the part of the students and does not involve students in creative thinking and participation in the creative part of activities.

Most of the time, during teaching learning process, instruction remains unilateral which is considered to be an orthodox activity. The upcoming trends in education changed the present scenario and adopted the constructivist approach which is moral and more focused on innovative activities and knowledge acquisition and therefore, the academic results of the students of constructivist classrooms are better than traditional classrooms.

It was found that constructivist instructed students had higher scores than the students who were exposed to conventional method of teaching. The individual differences existing between learners, their background knowledge and learning styles are often ignored in the conventional classrooms.

Present educational system provide a unique and standardized teaching material to all learners which tend to benefit to those whose learning style and background knowledge fits well with the teaching material. If the teaching style closely matches the students preferred style of acquiring knowledge, learning becomes easier and more natural, results improve and learning time is reduced. In few words, traditional teaching material and strategies generally tend to benefit some students more than others [ 2 ].

The NCF, also suggests adopting critical pedagogy because students are not just young people for whom adults should devise solutions.

They are critical observers of their own conditions and needs and should be participants in discussion and problem-solving related to their education and future opportunities. Critical pedagogy provides an opportunity to reflect critically on issues in terms of their political, social, economic and moral aspects.

Positive Contributions of Constructivism to Educational Design

The improvement in learning outcomes is possible by shifting the focus of teaching learning process on concept development and deep understanding. Till now, most of the focus has been to ensure access to education.

  • Social Constructivism The most important aspect on which constructivism focuses is knowledge construction;
  • To be the most effective, students should have ready access to resources like libraries, the internet, e-mail, etc;
  • This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited;
  • Another appeal that traditional methodologies hold is the maintenance of objectivity in assessment.

Therefore, a question arises on the philosophical underpinnings of the long dominant pretest-teach-post teach model of education.

Despite completing all their tests, too many students simply are not learning [ 3 ]. There arises a need to adopt a new pedagogy which encourages the learner to construct a sense of her own self, the development of her autonomy, alongside her progress within the group for interpersonal growth.

Pedagogy is a vehicle of articulating learning goals and identifying the forms of activities that promote development toward those goals. Constructivist pedagogy is one such approach where activities are proposed to students that are meaningful for them and the learner reflects, searches, uses her capacity for taking initiatives and for being creative.

Constructivist pedagogy in which activity supplements lecture, learners are provided opportunities to construct their own understanding on the basis of an interaction between what they already know. The need for constructivist approach arises when behaviorism fall short of producing positive effects within the complex context of the classroom and left teachers feeling shortchanged and cheated by a system that placed the guilt for students' failure to learn in their hands.

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Following the legacy of behaviorism, constructivism has been welcomed as a theory of knowing that more fully explains the complexity of the teaching-learning process [ 4 ]. Need of constructivism The present article concentrates on providing an alternative pedagogy based on the principles of constructivism theory given by Piaget [ 5 ], Vygotsky [ 6 ] and other theoreticians including psychologists and sociologists. If we accept constructivist theory, then we have to give up platonic and all subsequent realistic views of epistemology.

The theories of learning, strategies of teaching and learning and the pedagogies are the guiding principles in framing an instructional design.

The instructional design following constructivist ideology avoids directing a pupil towards a solution to the problem rather it encourages self-conceptualization of the solution. There is a need to develop a learning design using constructivist learning strategies which follows the principles of social constructivism and also aims at developing social and emotional skills in students by using social constructivism in classrooms.

The proximal goals of SEL programs are to foster the development of five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies: Definitions for constructivism in education are as follows "It is assumed that learners have to construct their own knowledge individually and collectively.

  • It costs more to have many small classrooms that it does to have a few large lecture halls;
  • Educational models that utilize constructivist theory consider these influences and attempt to match education systems and curricula to each socio-culturally distinct group of students;
  • The father of social constructivism, Vygotsky [ 6 ] views the origin of knowledge construction as being the social intersection of people, interactions that involve sharing, comparing and debating among learners and mentors.

Each learner has a tool kit of concepts and skills with which he or she must construct knowledge to solve problems presented by the environment. The role of the community, other learners and teacher is to provide the setting, pose the challenges, and offer the support that will encourage mathematical construction.

Learning involves an active process in which learners construct meaning by linking new ideas with their existing knowledge" [ 4 ]. Social Constructivism The most important aspect on which constructivism focuses is knowledge construction.

Knowledge construction is viewed differently by different philosophers and psychologists. Children acquire knowledge through their actions and passes through stages of assimilation, accommodation and equilibrium in the process of knowledge construction. The father of social constructivism, Vygotsky [ 6 ] views the origin of knowledge construction as being the social intersection of people, interactions that involve sharing, comparing and debating among learners and mentors.

In this way knowledge is mutually built. He argues that all higher mental functions are social in origin and are embedded in the context of sociocultural setting. In social constructivist model, the knowledge is constructed through interaction between teacher and student.

The role of teacher in social constructivist approach shifts from the sole dispenser of knowledge to motivator, guide and resource person. Constructivist Learning Strategies The constructivist learning strategies can be developed using principles of social constructivism to improve academic achievement, high order thinking skills and social and emotional skills of the students.

The constructivist environment in a classroom can be created by adopting the following: Provide experience with the knowledge construction process The teacher presents a topic to the learners and guides them to explore the topic through experimentation.

The learners are encouraged to frame a research question and teacher helps them to answer the research question framed by them through scaffolding. Experience in and appreciation for multiple perspectives All learners are distinct from each other in their way of thinking and so the need arises to look at a problem from multiple perspectives and provide the opportunities to learners to experiment and discuss their alternative ways of thinking.

Here, the students are encouraged to work in groups. Finally, all the groups can share their opinions on the topic with each other. Provide social and emotional learning The social and emotional aspects of learning will be taught to the students in an integrated manner.

The five aspects of social and emotional learning which could be covered in the teaching are as follows: Use multiple modes of representation The multiple modes of representation also assist the goal of experiencing multiple perspectives.

Use of multiple media to enrich the learning environment provides the learners to view the topic being discussed in the class from multiple dimensions. The teacher should prepare a list of media available and supporting the topic. The teacher should also decide the use of media in supporting the authentic nature of the task.