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Definitions and Comparisons of Constructivism

Constructivism is a defined, when referring to the learner, as a "receptive act that involves construction of new meaning by learners within the context of their current knowledge, previous experience, and social environment" (Bloom; Perlmutter & Burrell, 1999). Also, real life experiences and previous knowledge are the stepping stones to a constructivism, learning atmosphere. (Spigner-Littles & Anderson, 1999). Constructivism involves the learner being responsible for learning the material and, not necessarily, the teacher (Ely; Foley; Freeman & Scheel, 1995). When learning occurs, the goals, values, and beliefs of the individuals need to be linked to the new data. Also, in constructivism, the person, who is taking in the knowledge, can somehow filter, amend, and reformat the information that he or she feels is important to the schema (Spigner-Littles & Anderson, 1999). A constructivist learner uses the creative approach to apply their own meaning to a topic using the social and cognitive circumstances around themselves (Bloom; Perlmutter & Burrell, 1999). A short and sweet summary of constructivism is "how one attains, develops, and uses cognitive processes" (Airasian & Walsh, 1997).

Constructivism versus Traditionalism

There are methods that are considered very different than constructivism that are used in the classroom. One of the approaches is the traditional approach where the teacher teaches the information to the student, and the student does not contribute as much or convey the prior knowledge of the material during instruction (Airasian & Walsh, 1997). It has been said that traditional teaching can segregate students, especially ones with special needs, in the classroom (Bloom; Perlmutter& Burrell, 1999). In other words, traditional instruction is a more teacher-centered approach that uses rote, fact based learning. The teachers create the values, behaviors, and beliefs for the students. The teacher is in charge of the classroom, where they have rewards and consequences, and the students work mostly by themselves (this is very different that the constructivist classroom, which will be explained) (Windschitl, 1999).

Characteristics and Roles in a Constructivist Classroom

There are many specific aspects of constructivism when relating it to the classroom and the learner, at whatever age. As mentioned before, the social aspect of constructivism is important in the classroom. The socialization and interaction are an essential part of the classroom. It is in a constructivism classroom where a child can use his or her social activity to be influenced or influence other students’ beliefs and values.
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