EdTech 504 – Learning Theories Paper – Module 2 (6/20/2012)

Overview: 

Social Constructivism is a learning theory that emphasizes the significance of environment and culture on the learning process.  It is a part of the Constructivism school of thought.

Social Constructivism is a theory applied to distance learning, where the classes are truly (or should be) student-centered. (Anderson, 2011).

Contributors:

Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey. (Anderson, 2011).

Major Principles: 

  • Zone of proximal development (ZPD) – relates to an individual’s ability to do work either independently or dependently.
  • Scaffolding literally means support and in this case, refers to the support given to learners while they are working on something.  Over time, the amount of support decreases as the learners become more comfortable in whatever skill they’re working on.  (Jonassesn, 2012, Page 272).
  • Knowledge comes from a built-up process, which means that new knowledge is previous knowledge that has been built upon.
  • It is important that a learner’s development of knowledge have a context – that is, a way to apply what they are learning.
  • Learning should be an active process.  Anderson (p. 3) doesn’t think that learning should be a passive process.
  • The language one uses and other social tools are important to the process of constructing knowledge.
  • An important principle of Social Constructivism is the use of metacognition and evaluation in working with learners to evaluate their own performance.
  • Look at things from different angles and remember that the learning environment should be learner-centered. (Anderson, 2011)

Application:

Learning to walk seems to be an appropriate model to illustrate the social constructivist theory of education.  Whether the person learning to walk is a toddler or someone recovering from an injury, they must first learn to crawl or get out of bed or a wheelchair.  Usually they are going to do this with some support or scaffolding.

Parents will usually encourage children to crawl or provide a hand to hold, when they start walking.  A physical therapist will work with someone in recovery to make sure they do not fall and re-injure themselves.  Eventually the toddler learns to walk on his or her own.  Hopefully the injured person doesn’t fall and in fact makes a full recovery.

References:

  1. Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2011). Three Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 80–97.
  2. Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (Eds.). (2012). Theoretical Foundations of Learning Environments (2nd ed.). Routledge.
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