When I was in my first year of university and studying educational psychology I came across constructivist learning for the first time. I remember the confusion that surrounded this term and how everyone in the tutorial tried to make sense of it. I think I’m still constantly trying to make sense of it as I consider it in different teaching and learning contexts but it wasn’t long into the year that I started to grasp it and love it.
The constructivists greats, the foundational researchers, are Vygotsky, Piaget, Dewey, Kolb and Montessori to name a few. All educators are familiar with these names and may feel plagued by them at times but the work of these theorists has been pivotal in shaping constructivist learning theory. Here are some of the definitions they and others have for constructivism:
“Constructivism is a learning theory found in psychology which explains how people might acquire knowledge and learn. It therefore has direct application to education. The theory suggests that humans construct knowledge and meaning from their experiences.” (From The University of Sydney)
“Constructivism is a theory to explain how knowledge is constructed in the human being when information comes into contact with existing knowledge that had been developed by experiences.” (From Wikipedia)
“Constructivism is basically a theory — based on observation and scientific study — about how people learn. It says that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences. When we encounter something new, we have to reconcile it with our previous ideas and experience, maybe changing what we believe, or maybe discarding the new information as irrelevant.” (From Concept to Classroom)
In a nutshell, constructivist learning is about the learner and how they construct their own knowledge and understanding through making connections with what they experience. This video below is a great explanation and example of constructivism in action.[youtube http://youtu.be/uP5ohML9P_w]
In lessons we have a school for years 8-10 where they get to learn more study skills and do independent study I would really like to see the constructivist learning theory played out a bit more. I’m in the process of integrating the eportfolio open source software Mahara into these lessons to help facilitate more reflection on the learning experiences that students have. I want to see them become more aware of their own learning processes and be able to improve their outcomes because of it. I can testify to the power of being aware of our learning processes through experiences we have. I myself have relished the opportunities I’ve had to learn about how I learn and have used that as much as possible to keep growing. I want that for my students so much too 🙂