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Critically evaluate the constructivist approach to learning

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Critically evaluate the constructivist approach to learning

Category: Critical Thinking

Subcategory: Psychology

Level: Academic

Pages: 16

Words: 4400

Critical Evaluation of the Constructivist Theory
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Abstract
This paper thus looks into the theories developed for learning with a focused look into constructivist theory which is being advocated as the more adoptive learning approach of the 21st century. Instructor-driven theories that assume that teaching occurs as the students get knowledge from the external world differ from the constructivism theory in that the students are integrating information with the existing knowledge assisting them to cultivate their own understanding. This study looks into the theories applied in learning. The focus is on the use of the constructivism theory, how it defers from the other theories, and its advantages and associated demerits arising from its practice.
To determine the benefits of constructivism over the other theories of learning. This paper discusses behaviorism, cognitive, and constructivist theories of learning. After which the constructivist theory of learning is evaluated, and its benefits are determined. The paper considered the advancement in technology and especially in the use of computers in learning. The availability of another source of information apart from the traditional source of information that was the teacher was also taken into account.
Introduction
Constructivism is the idea of students constructing information for themselves in their individual perspectives as he or she learns. This learning process is a student-driven approach in which the students develop their apprehending of the knowledge while they work with ideas and reflect on their individual processes (Allen, 2005). The approach is not centered on a sole authoritative information source that is considerably all-knowing but instead, the learners integrate their off-class experiences and idea and also those that they individually develop for a given concept. A student-based learning model whose emphasis is on exposing the learner to several perspectives assuming that every individual sources information from the real world by filtering the data in the very best way that the individual deems best so as to comprehend the knowledge.
The theory of constructivism heavily depends on an individual’s capacity for constructing their understanding on a piece of information. The approach calls for more than active, hands-on learning demanding instructors and learners to take different roles and correctly capitalize in knowledge facilitation. The approach needs reflection, active interactions, inquiry, and analysis. At the same time, the approach recognizes the differences in time taken to understand a single lesson hence allowing the students to have their individual perspectives that assist them to understand.
Research questions
What are the benefits and the consequences of a constructivist approach to learning?
How does the use of constructivism assist students in producing information?
Different theories of intelligence
Behaviorism
Behaviorism is a theory that apply to both human beings and animal concentrate on observable behavior and disregard what happens in the mind. According to behavior theorists, learning is limited to gaining of new behavior. Research by behavior theorist pinpoint condition used collective education process. There are two categories of conditioning with each resulting in varying behavior pattern.
One of the conditioning is the classic conditioning that take place a natural impulse reaction to a stimulus. The general observation example is that made by Pavlov. He observed dogs do salivate as they eat food and when they sight food. Both the human beings and the animals are biologically created in a way that they produce a certain response to a given stimulus.
The other conditioning is the operant conditioning that takes place when a reaction to a given stimulus is strengthened. Essentially, the operant condition is a reaction to the system and is characterized by being simple. In case a reward or support follows the reply to a certain stimulus, and then the reaction suits more plausible shortly. One of the common applications of reinforcement technique was by behavior theorists BF Skinner in teaching pigeons how to boogie and sink a ball in a mini-alley.
Behaviorism technique on learning is also known as directed instruction. The term directed instruction is deducted as one compares behaviorism and constructivism learning approach. The main difference between the two is that behaviorism is referred to as an objectivist approach to learning.
Behaviorism focuses on indications that learning is taking place. A cognitive theory of learning stresses on the function of mind in the course of learning. The theory states that more than one channel is used which include short term and long term memory. One can claim that cognitive theory on learning contrast behaviorism by mentioning the contribution of mind in the course of learning. Behaviorism theorists’ acknowledge the contribution of mind in the course of learning. In fact, behaviorism theorists state that existence of mind is an unobservable indication that learning is taking place.
From the study above we find out that, there are some ways in which we apply behaviorism in our learning environment. An analysis of traditional teaching approach, conclude that behaviorism had a lot of influence on our teaching practices. The idea of directed instruction is where the instructor or the tutor transfers the knowledge to the learners directly face to face or by setting up some contingencies are good examples of behaviorism learning model. The traditional system of learning uses exams to measure our observable behavior of gaining information; the system also incorporates the use of gifts and punishment, also the system break down the instructions to form a condition learning model. The above statement shows the influence of behaviorism in the traditional learning system (Ultanir, 2012).
With the advancement in technology, most of the learning is using computers to provide instruction to students. The use of computers to provide instructions to a student from behaviorism theorist perspective is because the use of instruction is an effective learning method. Learning institution that uses computer-aided instruction employ drill and practice technique to teach new skills and concepts. The issue of what make the learner to the newly captured information is still under debate. Depending on the response given one may receive a reward as per the learning system in use. The contingency of learning models is translated into various levels of the learning program. The process of rewarding the learners in various level of the learning program follow the same technique as that used in operant conditioning. A number education intellectual have recommended the use of computer aided instruction because it allows the learner to study at their pace and also liberate the learners from direct instruction. Thus, use of computer-aided instruction can be identified as an effective learning technique as it meets the individual needs of the learners even those with special needs.

Cognitivist
Cognitive theorists on learning do realize the value of learning strategies, but they stress on the part of thinking in the course of learning and significant of knowing the reason things are the way they are. Cognitive theorists portly learning as a process in which the student is an active participant, for instance by retrieving other personal experience for the long term memory and relating them to newly gained information to develop a new understanding and also gain new knowledge and in some case gain the skill to perform certain tasks. According to Ultanir, (2012) successful learning is characterized by understanding, knowledge, and also a skill. The most significant parts of learning are identified as Interests, values, and attitudes, the three-part are the source of motivation to learn. The characters of a given person determine whether one values a specific form of knowledge to the extent of being willing to take part in the various activities that are necessary to secure and application of knowledge in question.
According to Garrison & Cleveland-Innes (2005) the main characteristics of the cognitive theory is that it encompasses the relations between mental components and the info that is processed through this multifarious network. In the process of learning, one creates a structure that is cognitive which define the conception of an individual and the surrounding setting. It is imperative to note that, the theory of cognitive is not limited to the learning process but instead it is involved in many processes comprised of the mind of human beings.
Theorists on the cognitive state that learning is mainly about integrating some actions into the active storage system composed of a number structures that are well organized referred to as schemata. For the efficient performance of human cognition, schemata have to conduct some functions. Schemata stores info in the long-term memory and also formulate background on which new info must be fit in so as to facilitate the process of understanding the information. Also, schemata control the attention, identify what one gains from the environment, and link the course of processing info. We can concur that mind employs schemata to organize selectively.
The executive monitor manages the comprehensive network and also coordinate the vast flow of sensory input. Depending on the personal interests, perception, and also motivation, the system selects, organizes and encrypts info for the storage. In the process above, attention indicates what a given person notices, while encoding encompasses the preparation of information for storage. Ultanir, (2012) Explain that when encrypting new information or data, the information is altered to suit the current schemata framework instead of copying the information into schemata the way it is received. The same case applies to data retrieval from the memory; schemata only choose the information that is relevant to the script that is in use at a given moment. Cognitive learning and even application of information gained depend on the schematic platform.
The information preprocessing before storage encompasses some vital cognitive components. When an individual detects an input, the raw information is stored temporally in the sensory buffer. The capacity of the receiver is unlimited, but the data tend to disappear swiftly in case attention does not hand over the information to STM, which denotes short-term memory. In general, short-term memory holds a maximum of seven items, despite this chunking approach can increase the number of items on hold by clustering the information. The only difference between the working memory and the short-term memory is that working memory is used for particular mental operations, for example, addition. Similar to the short-term memory, long-term memory have the indefinite capacity. The data stored in the long term memory is stored permanently and organized into meaningful parts. Long term memory is categorized into semantic and episodic. Semantic memory is composed of info that is captured directly from the surrounding such as directions and equations while the episodic memory deals with individual experience surrounding a given event.
According to Ultanir, (2012) meaningful learning take place when info stored in the long-term memory is retrieved to short-term memory and integrated with newly captured data in the mind. The most significant cognitive associations take place when one link stored information to sensory input and subsequently encrypt the incentives into the long term memory. We can deduce that cognitive learning gives emphasis to the internal mental process of connotation. This idea contradicts the behavioral view of associations which is based on external motivation. Thus, meaningful learning depends on the students’ action and not the event of the surrounding.
The cognitive theory of learning is based on the notion that gaining knowledge depends on the method of learning used. Once a student gains new info in learning environments, he or she is supposed to apply that info to the completely different environment from the learning one in later stages of life. For the student to be able to apply information, the student must understand it correctly and stored the info in an organized manner in the long term memory.
The cognitive theory focuses much on how information is captured and stored. As the two capturing and storage define learning. The process of information acquisition and storage is more or less similar to how computers use algorithms to transform data. Thus, information processing is the basis of the cognitive theory that is cognitive theory have to take into account the information processing process. With the advancement in technology, lab experiments and computer simulations are being employed in research of info processing models.
There are some studies on how interaction with both social and physical environment defines a given person structure of knowledge. One of the gained insight from these studies is that, socially shared insignia structures that include dialects, pictograms, and diagrams are significant fundamentals for learning. In the 21st century computers and the Internet is a powerful tool in all walks of life, in the education center the computers and the internet are providing a new method of exchange of info between the students and the teachers. Cognitive theory recognizes the active role of an individual play in learning process. We can concur that how an individual gain knowledge depends mostly on their goals in life, it is also a factor of individual specific goal in learning, the learning strategy used, the confidence that one has in themselves as problem solvers and other similar elements (Riding, & Rayner, 2013).
The cognitive theory of learning in today’s world is broad. During the research on articles about this theory of learning, it was hard to find learning strategies originating from the cognitive theory. It is important to note that cognitive theory does not compete with other theories, instead cognitive theory on learning overlap with other similar theories and most importantly there is high possibility of a huge gain if more than one theory of learning in incorporated together.
Constructivism
Constructivism learning theory is founded on the effort of evolving psychologists; the theory opposes the idea that people deduce implication through their interaction and experiences with the social and physical environment. The constructivism theory assumes that past understanding and experience play an important function in learning and develop the basis for consequent events. The theory concentrates on the student’s attention and the reason for learning. Thus opens the mind of the student to critical thinking and intellectual growth.
Constructivism theory is based on the idea that by reflecting on our experience, we develop our understanding of the society we live. Each and every person has his or her mental framework and guidelines that we use to understand our experience (Cooperstein, & Kocevar-Weidinger, 2004). Thus, according to the constructivist theory, learning is simply the process of modifying our mental framework so as to incorporate new experiences.
Piaget state that one employs more than some channels to develop understanding. These channels are not limited to reading, discovering, undergoing, and listening. Vygotsky, who is a Russian born psychologist, incorporate the use of the social and traditional influence on the learning process and stresses the role of the two in the construction of knowledge. Constructivism theory emphasizes on the significant of learning in the framework. Construction understanding is as a result of interaction with the social and physical environment in which the understanding is to be useful.
The three main characteristics that differentiate constructivism theory from cognitive theory are: Cognition learning take place as individuals share their knowledge with one another and determine the extent to which are companionable. Constructivism theory investigates what is learnt, and the experienced learner draws. Both the constructivism and cognitive theory complement each other in that in both cases the knowledge develops through social interaction, which can take place independently or in a cooperative group of individuals. Besides, different perspectives and extra info assist the student to test the feasibility of understandings and to form new schemes that are companionable to the past knowledge (Reihlen, & Alexandra Apel, 2007).
The focus of the constructivism is to empower the student. The instructors’ role in constructivism is to involve the students and provide them with situations where teacher’s function is to guide the student in dissecting information and assisting them relating the past knowledge and newly acquired one. The constructivist approach to learning is transforming the education system from where teachers transfer information to students to students who can solve real life problems. Constructivism learning technique assists the students to realize their potential and encourage critical thing, and the question of the way thing are done (Gunstone, 2013). In constructivism, the students are not only the consumer of knowledge but also consumers of knowledge.
The environment for constructivist learning makes it possible to reflect the learning on a day to day activities with the aim of solving real-life problems. The environment integrates all the factors necessary to connect learning with workplaces operations. Learning in constructivism aided the design of learning environment in a way that it guide the learners to work as part of the team, setting individual sequence and rate of learning, and actively participate in activities that help in solving problems, engage in critical judgment and negotiation. It is the above domain that enables the students to change from mere observer to active students who can develop knowledge by linking new info and the past knowledge into what they have understood in the past, reviewing and reanalyzing old knowledge so as to merge it with new information.
Constructivism in learning
Constructivist approach to learning
A class that is dedicated to constructivist methods cannot endorse only the chronological, linear-based, educational projects or methods. The teacher is not perceived to be the provider of knowledge since such systems are contingent on the source-based method in which learners make individual-based inquiries which that requires access to diverse and enormous quantities of recent and specific information on the subject matter. Apart from becoming more proficient at collecting resourceful information, students should comprehend the significance of evaluating information on societal issues such as social, economic as well as political biases.
Every constructivist teacher is bound to be aware that students encounter similar concepts varying means and circumstances with a variety of objectives and anticipations. Such an understanding would help the teacher in guiding the student towards becoming proficient in generation and transference of assembled and appropriate information (Huang, Rauch, & Liaw, 2010). In the constructivist’s setting, the emphasis is more on information generation, not imitation; the alignment of data and not the obligation of information; different perspectives and not several course books. Teachers should thus equip themselves with inventive and authoritative insight so as to motivate and simulate operative instances resembling the education reality.
Constructive learning intrinsically implies an active and action filled classroom. A class in which a teacher adopts the constructivist method towards education anticipates performance and determination from the students. The learners are exhilarated to produce individual ideas and information through implementation, exertion, and elaboration of the identified knowledge. Students cannot construct information just by inertly getting, obtaining, or taking it; nor by impassively observing and paying attention. Information is not molded while transmitting it from the sources to students. Thus, the emphasis on teaching should thus be on the construction of meaning and comprehending when they encounter new contexts. Active students should be involved in contributing, participating, building and collaborating in information building and comprehending. Constructive learning happens so that information can be transferred and possessed by the student. In constructivism, students must be afforded a chance to be lively in a way that promotes self-guidance, originality and dire analysis of the problem that requires an answer (Rovai, 2004).
In a constructivist class, education is constructed, active, reflective, collaborative, inquiry based, and evolving.
Constructed
A constructed approach implies that the student is not a blank slate on which information is engraved. In contrast, the students come to class with readily formulated information, ideas, and perceptions that are raw materials to what they shall learn in class.
Active
In an active class, the learner builds new understanding of the information. Thus the instructor’s role is to coach, moderate, suggest while allowing learners to investigate, inquire, and try things that are inapplicable. The activities need the student to participate fully so that one can reflect on, and talk about these learning activities. The learners are thus able to set their objectives and ways of evaluation.
Reflective
Learners should regulate their learning method by replicating on the activities they undertake. Reflection makes them specialists of their erudition. Teachers assist in building environments in which the learners feel safe inquiring and reflecting on the individual’s learning process, either in private or in group dialogs. Trainers are supposed to create actions that lead the learners to reflect on their former information and understandings.
Collaborative
In constructivism, the class works heavily rely on cooperation amongst the learners. The collaborative aspects ensure that students learn about information from themselves and also from their comrades. By analyzing and reflecting on their learning process together, students can obtain different strategies from the others.
Inquiry-Based
Constructivist classes involve solving problems hence the learners use inquiries to ask queries, explore a topic, and explore from a variety of sources so as to get the solutions. By exploring the topics, students derive conclusions, and later reexamine them since probing into a question lead to more new questions.
Evolving
A student’s prior idea may turn out to be invalid or inadequate to describe a new experience as the student may learn later. The idea may be a temporary step in the incorporation of information. Constructivist approaches considers the learners’ current perceptions and shapes education from there (Jonassen, & Land, 2012). As per constructivist model of learning, when a student learns a new idea, they relate to the information that they already have, and they either match or do not match. On doing so, the new knowledge may perfectly match to what they previously knew. Thus, the student only enhances his knowing. Else, if the knowledge doesn’t match the previously known information, then the student might alter her earlier cognizing to look on how to intake the new information. But the mismatching information can also be ignored. Thus, the student does not thus absorb the information, or the information may be postponed to be synthesized at a later stage.
Example of a constructivist approach
Education in the 21st century has incorporated the use of technological platforms towards delivering information to students. The constructivist approach has been endorsed in learning practices since technology allows the learners to access multiple information sources and at the same time to integrate it with prior knowledge in the best way decipherable to the student (Riding, & Rayner, 2013). My opinion is that by endorsing the use of technology in a constructivist setting, then the system can be very captivating to students since it increases attentiveness in learning, making the student develop an interest in acquiring more information and carrying out hands-on experiments on the knowledge that they obtain. In my example of illustrating how this theory can be used in effective teaching system, I look into the Singapore’s “future schools” method of education.
In Singapore, selected public schools have been emphasizing the use of technology, digital media, and the integration of the constructivist learning approach. In these schools, there is diversity in students’ capabilities but they are all integrated into the technological teaching approach in these schools, the teachers are not the source of information as the traditional teaching approaches advocated. However, the students can acquire information needed from a million sources, thanks to the internet, web, and computer hardware developments. The role of the teachers in these schools is to guide the students on how and where to get the information they need, how to synthesize the knowledge, and how they discern this knowledge. I was amused by the fact that the teachers use social media platforms to gather the views of the students. The students use Twitter to answer the questions that teacher asks in class making the class interactive. These instant messaging platforms allow students to interact with the teacher on an active basis since everyone gets a chance ask or answer a question or to contribute to a topic of discussion. The system has increased the participatory culture for the students to engage through Facebook, Twitter or even blogs. The students are thus not only the consumers of knowledge but also the producers of information. The students can access to a wide range of information from which they can share according to their individual understanding. This Singapore’s educational approach is a good example of constructivism in practice. The system is focused on professional development of the students.
Evaluation of a constructivist approach to learning
Benefits
The use of Constructivism a teaching model gives learners the ownership of what the students gain. The ownership of knowledge gained, depends on learners question and explorations, and in some cases learners are the one who provide assessment criteria as well. Learners’ assessment in constructivist considers the learners’ initiatives and time invested in research that include in journal articles, research papers, physical models, and creative representations. Involving the learners, creative side plays an important role in developing the learner’s skills in expressing knowledge through some different ways. Thus, in constructivism approach to learning, there is a high possibility of students retaining and transferring the newly acquired knowledge in real life situation (Kirschner, Sweller, & Clark, 2006).
Constructivism improves the learners relate to others and the way they articulate their ideas by ensuring that learning environment emphasizes teamwork through exchanging of ideas. Learners in a collaborative setup learn how to share their ideas and also learn how to work as a part of a team working toward achieving a common goal plus also learn how share tasks with other members of the team. Learners are educated on how to share ideas, negotiate with others and even how to evaluate their contribution to the society. The products of constructivism learning approach are important to our society, based on the fact that they have an understanding of how to cooperate with others and how to relate to members of the society.
Learning technique is the best if it focuses on promoting student’s thinking and understanding, instead of forcing them to memorize. Constructivism learning theory focuses on assisting the students on how to think and understand. Constructivist encourages one to share knowledge. In a constructivist learning environment, learners identify some principles that they adhere to in their learning settings (Mampadi et al., 2011).
It is through grounding learning operations in a real, and context of the real world context, constructivism learning technique stimulates and involve the learners. Learners in constructivist learning environment develop the capability to question things, the way they are done and to relate it to their curiosity to the real word.
Constructivism learning model has cannot be viewed as the transfer of information from teacher to the students to unenlightened; constructivist learners do not take information directly from the teachers. Instead, instructors in constructivist learning model guide the learners and making the opportunity available to them to test their understanding on a given issue.
Disadvantages and missing elements
In cases where learning is based on past information or knowledge, the instructor in constructivism is required to note that information and ensure that the classroom is facilitating in exploiting the different understanding and experience among different students. The fact that students have a different understanding of the same thing poses a challenge to the teachers. Different learning environment and experience may be required to chive a common understanding among the students. Thus, achieving a similar understanding for all the students, is either difficult if not impossible.
The teachers in a constructivist learning approach are required to incorporate issues that are important to the learners and not the issues are important to the tutors. In my opinion, this is a disadvantage of constructivism based on that, this model of teaching fails to provide a comprehensive way of incorporating issues affecting the students in learning. Without a comprehensive plan incorporating issues that are affecting students in learning is difficult if not impossible. Evaluating each and every student to enhance the productivity of teamwork is time-consuming (Ormrod, & Davis, 2004).
Constructivism learning technique is time-consuming. These approaches to learning require knowledge to be actively built. More time is required to reflect students’ new experience and in identifying how these issues affect their current understanding of the world.
Conclusions
This paper highlights the advantages of the constructivist approach and how it defers from the traditional learning approaches. The process of constructivist learning highly engages the students in their work and thus promotes learning in a more involving way where each student can decipher information according to his ability and perspective. In this approach, the students benefit largely from the information that they acquire since they have rich resources from which they can deduct information they need. In the approach, the students are not solely the receivers of knowledge but they are also the producers of information. The generation of information is from multiple free accessible sources from which the students gather information to suit their understanding. This is in contrast to traditional approaches where teachers were considered to be the all-knowing knowledge sources. In the constructivist approach, the role of a teacher has reduced to that of facilitation and guiding the students to acquire and decipher the information as well as learn how to use the information that they acquire.
References
Allen, K. (2005). Online learning: Constructivism and conversation as an approach to learning. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 42(3), 247-256.
Cooperstein, S. E., & Kocevar-Weidinger, E. (2004). Beyond active learning: a constructivist approach to learning. Reference Services Review, 32(2), 141-148.
Garrison, D. R., & Cleveland-Innes, M. (2005). Facilitating cognitive presence in online learning: Interaction is not enough. The American Journal of Distance Education, 19(3), 133-148.
Gunstone, P. J. (2013). The content of science: A constructivist approach to its teaching and learning. Routledge.
Huang, H. M., Rauch, U., & Liaw, S. S. (2010). Investigating learners’ attitudes toward virtual reality learning environments: Based on a constructivist approach. Computers & Education, 55(3), 1171-1182.
Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (Eds.). (2012). Theoretical foundations of learning environments. Routledge.
Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.
Mampadi, F., Chen, S. Y., Ghinea, G., & Chen, M. P. (2011). Design of adaptive hypermedia learning systems: A cognitive style approach. Computers & Education, 56(4), 1003-1011.
Ormrod, J. E., & Davis, K. M. (2004). Human learning. Merrill.
Reihlen, M., & Alexandra Apel, B. (2007). Internationalization of professional service firms as learning-a constructivist approach. International Journal of Service Industry Management, 18(2), 140-151.
Riding, R., & Rayner, S. (2013). Cognitive styles and learning strategies: Understanding style differences in learning and behavior. Routledge.
Rovai, A. P. (2004). A constructivist approach to online college learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 7(2), 79-93.
Ultanir, E. (2012). An Epistemological Glance at the Constructivist Approach: Constructivist Learning in Dewey, Piaget, and Montessori. Online Submission, 5(2), 195-212.

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