Monday, April 7, 2014

Constructing Knowledge Through Experience-A Teaching Method

Constructivism is a concept that entails all learning as a building process that creates knowledge through mental processes derived from the social and communicative process. When students are reflective they are able to learn from their experience and apply new information to these concepts. A paper by Abdulla Al Mahmud moves into the concept of learning through a constructivist perspective by fostering knowledge building through experience to create better student learning (2013). 

In a constructionists perspective all learning comes from experiencing the world and reflecting on those experiences.  The concept was mention by John Dewey in his 1910 book How We Think, “Only by wrestling with the conditions of the problem at hand, seeking and finding his own solution [not in isolation but in correspondence with the teacher and other pupils] does one learn.” People live within a social environment and use their experiences and the knowledge of others to learn.

To understand a person you must understand what they know and how they know it. Jean Piaget (1985) believed that knowledge is the result of accurate internalization of information and reconstructing that information into cognitive meaning. People must take in information, reflect on it, and build better models of the world to engage in the process of learning. Teachers must find ways of relaying information to fit within existing student models.

Social constructivism occurs when people learn from each other to create sociably acceptable models of understanding. They use language and their social networks to construct the meaning of their environment. Most individuals experience and negotiate that experience with others to create an understanding that is shared among a group of individuals. That does not mean that the experience or its socially constructed definition is accurate but only that it is shared.

The best learning occurs when reflection is part of the process. Critical thinking requires reflection of past and current situations to develop stronger ways of viewing the world. This can take the effective of reflection-in-action or reflection-on-action. Both methods offer some advantages to the development of knowledge.

Reflection-in-action occurs during a situation when an individual adjusts and moves to events as they occur.  “The competent practitioner learns to think on his/her feet and is able to improvise as
s/he takes in new information and/or encounters the unexpected .”(Pickett, 1996,p. 1). They use past knowledge and current information to build stronger models as the events unfold.

Reflection-on-action occurs when a person looks back at past performance or situations and learns new knowledge. Students may take case scenarios and match then to their models to expand those understandings. They may review and reflect on their actions to determine if these actions were successful or unsuccessful. Reflection creates opportunities to do things better in the future.

Eight factors can be derived from constructionist pedagogy (Brooks & Brooks, 1993):

1. Learning should take place in real-world situations.
2. Learning should involve social negotiation.
3. Content and skills should be relevant to the student
4. Content and skills should fit within the student’s previous knowledge
5. Assessments should be formative
6. Students should be self-regulatory, self-mediated, and self-aware
7. Teachers are guides
8. Teachers should encourage multiple perspectives and representations of issues.

The author leaves the reader with three concepts learned in his analysis. Each of these concepts can be applied within the constructionist learning method. Students should come with Open-mindedness, Sincerity, and Responsibility. Open-mindedness analyzes multiple perspectives and possibilities. Sincerity allows for self-reflection on themselves, their work, and structures. Responsibility will lead to greater concerns of seeking out the truth in order to solve problems and extract information to create new learning for others.

Al Mahmud, A. (2013). Constructivism and reflectivism as the logical counterparts in TESOL: learning theory versus teaching methodology. TEFLIN Journal: A Publication on the Teaching & Learning of English, 24 (2).

Brooks, J. & Brooks, M. (1993). In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Piaget, J. (1985). The equilibration of cognitive structures: The central problem of intellectual development. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Pickett, A. (1996). Reflective teaching practices and academic skills instruction. Retrieved from

No comments:

Post a Comment