A Constructivist Approach to Learning

In addition to the two major approaches to how people learn that we discussed above, the constructivist approach has emerged over the past three decades, with a tremendous impact on learning. Constructivism has its roots in both psychology and philosophy. Constructivism goes beyond the traditional view of cognitivism that “people represent information in their minds as single or aggregated sets of symbols, and that cognitive activity consists of operating on these symbols by applying to them learn plans, or algorithms”.

Marzano  writes, “Constructivism refers to the general principle that learners use their prior knowledge to construct a personally meaningful understanding of new content that is the focus of learning” The learner takes in information from the world, filters this information, and use this information to make his or her own unique reality . Driscoll  adds that constructivism “rests on the assumption that knowledge is constructed by learners as they attempt to make sense of their experiences. Learners, therefore, are not empty vessels waiting to be filled, but rather active organisms seeking meaning”. Driscoll summarizes the conditions necessary for learning in a constructivist environment as:

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embedded learning in complex, realistic, and relevant environments; provision for social negotiation as an integral part of learning; support for multiple perspectives and the use of multiple modes of representation; encouragement of ownership in learning; and nurturing of self-awareness of the knowledge construction process.


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