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English has been the international language for a long time. People started to learn English in order to communicate with others. Therefore, teaching English as a Second language (ESL) in most countries has been very important especially in Saudi Arabia. Instructors started to look for the most effective methods in order to teach English easily and efficiently.
Researchers and scientists have reached to some theories that would help teachers to use in their classes whether it is a class for mathematics, art science, or language such as English. Their researches resulted into two main theories which are behaviorism, and constructivism. Each theory has its own principles and methods. Each theory finds different application in different situations. The educator can use all of them in the same class or each theory in different classes.
The purpose of this study is
I will speak about these theories in brief and then I'm going to choose which theory I think it is more beneficial and well-organized to me.
There is no knowledge independent of the meaning attributed to experience (constructed) by the learner, or community of learners. (Hein, 1991)
Behaviorism dominated the educational landscape 20 years ago, while the main learning theory today is constructivism. The contrast between behaviorism and constructivism is where behaviorism views knowledge as resulting from an outcome procedure, constructivism views knowledge as the natural consequence of a constructive procedure. Where behaviorism views learning as a dynamic procedure of obtaining knowledge, constructivism views learning as a dynamic procedure of constructing knowledge. Finally, where behaviorism views teaching as the process of providing knowledge, constructivism views teaching as the process of supporting construction of knowledge. (Bichelmeyer & Hsu, 1999, p. 4)
In contrast of behaviorists, constructivists discuss that there are multiple realities built by individuals. The human mind does not copy reality from external directly, rather, it constructs reality' ( (Driscoll, 1994). In other words, there is no shared reality'. (Bichelmeyer & Hsu, 1999, p. 3) This is the significant difference between constructivist and behaviorist learning concepts.
As preceded, there are two perspectives on learning which are behaviorist, and constructivist.
Behavioral psychology, also known as behaviorism, is a theory of learning based upon the concept that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. Conditioning occurs through interaction with the environment. According to behaviorism, behavior can be studied in a methodical and observable manner with no attention of internal rational states.
Behaviorism is completely opposite to constructivism. Behaviorists consider that knowledge does not depend upon reflection, and they absolutely discard debate about inner mental conditions. Rather, behaviorism's focus is on the exterior observation of legal relations between and among externally noticeable stimuli and the replies that follow. What constitutes lawful knowledge is openly noticeable, and as such, behaviorists believe that the idea of mental states can be rejected (Freiberg, 1999).
Behaviorists view all behaviors as a reply to exterior stimuli. A stimulus is the initial action directed to the organism, and a response is the organism's reaction to that action. The behaviorist believes that the learner obtains behavior, skills, and knowledge in response to the prizes, penalties, or withheld responses related to them. A prize includes all positive, negative, or unbiased reinforcement to a behavior. Reinforcing replies can include prizes (positive reinforcement), penalties (negative reinforcement), or withheld replies (no reinforcement). There are many famous behaviorists such a B. F. Skinner. (Judy Lever-Duffy & Jean B.McDonald, pp. 28-29)
This school of thought suggests that only noticeable behaviors should be studied, since interior states such as cognitions, passions and moods are too subjective. (Cherry)
There are two major types of conditioning:
Classical conditioning is a method used in behavioral training in which a certainly occurring stimulus is combined with a reply. Next, a previously neutral stimulus is combined with the certainly occurring stimulus. Finally, the earlier neutral stimulus comes to evoke the reply without the presence of the certainly occurring stimulus. The two features are then known as the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned reply. (Cherry)
Operant conditioning is a technique of learning that occurs through prizes and penalties for behavior. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. (Cherry)
Constructivism is a philosophy of learning originated on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we build our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us produces our own "rules" and "mental models," which we use to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is simply the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences. (Abradley, 2007)
For constructivists, knowledge is a constructed component resulting from the learning procedure. Also, knowledge is exclusive to the individual who constructs it. Mahoney (1994) sets constructivism on the cognitive family tree because it depends on the cognitive perceptions of inquiry based learning and social communication. Constructivism is an approach that emphasizes on experiences in which product of mental processes occur to create a distinctive product for each individual.
Constructivism has several different kinds which are cognitive, critical, radical, and social in which they share the similar idea that the students construct their own knowledge.
Learners build or find meaning in their subjective experiences, and this result becomes knowledge. For the constructivist, each person's subjective experience is just as valid as anyone else's, and no one has an epistemically advantaged perspective. Therefore, there are no objective criteria for what constitutes knowledge (Poerksen, 2004a). It is not necessarily that two people have the same constructions because what is knowledge to somebody may not be knowledge for somebody else. Having the same constructions would convey with it a host of ontological assumptions about the world and reality.
Constructivism replaced the instructor as the midpoint of knowledge (objective), with the student (subjective). Independent of the instructor, each student's subjective experiences now have an unusual and unique meaning. It is both the student's learning experience and her/his perceptions of those experiences that have educational worth.
The teachers should not teach in the old-fashioned sense of delivering instruction to a group of students. Rather, they should construct conditions such that students become actively involved with the content through manipulation of materials and social communication. In ESL class, the teacher can give vocabulary and the student can form it into sentences or give the anatomy of the word.
In recent years, constructivism increasingly has been applied to learning and teaching. Today a number of learning researchers have shifted even more toward a focus on learners. Rather than talk about how knowledge is acquired, they speak of how it is constructed. (H.Schunk, p. 229)
In the article "Educational Approach in Constructivism and Behaviorism" which is written by (Prida, 2008). She states that behaviorism is the theory that states that people can be taught through the use of prize or penalty. This theory involves the use of drill-and-practice as the chief form of instruction. In behaviorism, the instructor is the main focus of the lesson and all the students must often follow the guidelines exactly as they are given. This theory shows some problems with the behavior of the students due to the spoiling and extreme attention done by the parents.
Also, she states that when following the theory of constructivism, students are allowed to discover their environment, cooperate with it, and learn from it. The constructivist instructor acts as a support leader for students to lean on when they are in need, not the leader that everyone must follow. She found out that constructivism also sees variances amongst the students and the things they learn from their interactions; not everyone learns the same things at the same rate or with the same simplicity. She believes that constructivism is more efficient for adults in ESL classrooms.
In conclusion, she believes that in education neither constructivism nor behaviorism have all the responses. As an educator, one must find a midpoint, a way to combine the greatest features of the two theories in order to provide the best learning environment and results.
As a result, I shifted to concentrate on the constructivism more than behaviorism. In my teaching experience in institute, students are interested to learn English for various reasons. Some of these students are studying English for communication with the other world, for tourist, or for studying abroad.
Andrea states that behaviorism and constructivism are two of the main educational theories that form the basis of many of today's educational technology tools in the classrooms. She found out that there is a huge concern toward more of a constructivist method, however, when applying instructional technologies.
Also, there seems to be a theoretical change more often than not from behaviorist learning procedures to constructivist learning procedures because of the enlarged use of educational technologies, and stemming from the fact that several obtainable technologies that support constructivist learning stands. However, there are still many learning procedures that focus on more behaviorist learning methods, and there are arguments in support of their validity as well.
There are many factors to be considered when deciding which theory is more valid in certain practices, including curriculum, assessment, and resources. Though there appears to be a change toward more Constructivist learning procedures or a mixing of the two learning theories, the path ahead in determining specifically what should be done by instructor remains ambiguous. There are many significant aspects involved along with challenges to both theories, and it is possible that these trends may be analyzed but put into practice in a diversity of ways without any standardization.
Numerous people consider studying English as a second language in late ages is harder than studying it in early ages such as elementary school. That doesn't mean it is impossible to learn it. Therefore, there are several institutions in Saudi Arabia that teach (ESL) to help people to learn English or to improve them in order to support their studies whether at school or college.
I used to teach adult students. The ages vary from 18 to 29 years old. I used to teach for 6 hours daily for different levels from level one to level five. Furthermore, teachers are an essential link in the learning process in which they have to give a clear explanation for the students. They try to apply several techniques and theories in order to make the student acquire the knowledge easily and fast.
Furthermore, individuals in order to interact and communicate with the language they are learning, they should know about the country's culture and history. Therefore, some researchers found out that cultural variances are affecting students' academic learning negatively when they are studying ESL. (Huang, Jinyan & Brown, Kathleen, 2009)
Some of the lessons speak about some countries, so displaying pictures or bringing costumes will help the student to recognize and remember the vocabulary easily such as "poncho" and "Mexican hat".
The idea of implementing constructivism as a method in some of classes shows its productivity. Teachers