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Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premises that, by reflecting on our own experiences. We as life - long learners construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us expand and generate our own rules as we go through different experiences in order to make sense of our experiences. Learning is merely a process, adjusting our beliefs either by adjusting adding or eliminating them to accommodate the new experiences. In this we see how: "Constructivism has made and will make a significant contribution to educational theory and practices" (Airsan, 1997, P. 444).
As stated by Airsan, constructivist compares the "old" view of knowledge to a "new" constructivist view. In the "old" knowledge was fixed and independent of the learner, and the learner would accumulate truths to more knowledge one possesses. The "new" view is tentative, subjective and personal, for they make their own meaning from their beliefs and experiences.
"Thus constructivists believe that knowledge cannot be justified as 'true' in an absolute sense. Within our realm of contemporary educators we can find two broad interpretations: Psychological constructivism, articulated by Piaget, and Social constructivism, associated with Vygotsky. There are two major issues shape theses interpretations: "(1) education for individual development versus education for social development and (2) the degree of influence that social context has on individual cognitive development." (Richadson, 1997; Vadeboncoer, 1997)
Most of modern the modern day theory and the relationship to socialization, is vastly contributed by the work done by Jean Piaget. He proposed that that everyone progress through a series of cognitive stages of development, just as they progress through these series of physical stages of development. According to Piaget, the rate at which everyone passes through these cognitive stages may vary but will eventually pass through them all in the same order. These 4 stages are:
Sensorimotor stage (Birth to 2 years old): The infant develops and understanding of himself or herself and reality through interactions with the environment. The infant is able to differentiate between itself and other objects. Learning takes place via assimilation (application of previous concepts to new concepts) and accommodation (is the altering of previous concepts in the face of new information)
Preoperational stage (ages 2 to 4): The elementary forms of logical concepts are not yet formed. The child needs concrete physical situations. Here objects are classified in simple ways, especially by physical features.
Concrete operations (ages 7 to 11): As physical experiences accumulate, accommodation is increased. The child is able to think abstractly, and logical structures are used to explain his or her experiences.
Formal operations (beginning at ages 11 to 15): Cognition reaches its final form. By this stage, the person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgements. He or she is capable of deductive and hypothetical reasoning enabling the child the ability for abstract thinking, similar to that of an adult.
According to De Vries the most important aspects of Piaget was, "understanding scientific concepts is a matter of progressive construction through stages where reasoning becomes increasingly more adequate and corresponds to what society considers correct. In this conception lies the possibility for going beyond society and constructing something new to society" (De Vries, 2000, P.13).
The theoretical framework of Vygotsky on the other hand revolved around the theme that social interaction plays a fundamental role and mediates the development of the cognitive structures. Vygotsky states: "Every function in the child's cultural development appears twice: first in the social level, and, later on the individual level; first between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychologial). This applies equally to voluntary attention, to logical memory, and to formation of concepts. All the higher functions riginate as actual relationships between individuals" (Vygotsky, 1935/1978a, P. 86).
A second aspect of Vygocky's theory is that the potential for cognitive development depends upon the "zone of proximal development"(ZPD). Key practical implications from Vygotsky's notion of the zone of proximal development were drawn which he expresses as follows:
"What we call the zone of proximal developmentâ€¦is the distance between the actual development level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers." (Vygotsky, 1935/1978a, P.86)
Vygotsky's theory was an attempt to show that what we regard as true knowledge is the end product through socialization. Therefore his key principles were: Cognitive development is limited to a certain range at any given age and the other being full cognitive development requires social interaction.
Piaget and Vygotsky were similar in many ways. Mainly, they both advocated for students to have active participation in their learning. Piaget took note of the developmental ages of students in determining with they should be able to do. Vygotsky took that idea one step further by comparing the learner's actual development to their potential development. That potential area he coined 'zone of proximal development'. That zone is where a learner might need help. Both these educators contributed to the present day ideas of constructivist learning - learning by doing.