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Constructivist Theories of Learning

Constructivism in the Classroom


The basic premise of constructivist theories is that people create their own meaning through experience. Constructivism has its roots in the cognitive theories of Piaget and Vygotsky and embraces several aspects of both of those theories. From Piaget we get active learning, schemes, assimilation and accommodation, etc. From Vygotsky we get social constructivism, group work, apprenticeship, etc. Constructivism embraces a "top-down" rather than a "bottom-up" instructional methodology. This means that, rather than teach all of the details that lead to a main idea, students discover the main idea and then derive the details.

In constructivism, students are encouraged to learn main ideas on their own through discovery learning. Examples include learning about compound words by playing with word strips, learning about addition and subtraction through the use of manipulatives, or learning about capacity through experimentation with different sizes of objects.

Personal theories, or students' own ideas about how things work, play a large role in constructivism as we attempt to provide activities that clarify and correct misconceptions. Additional constructivist strategies include presenting others' viewpoints, promoting dialogue, and emphasizing conceptual understanding rather than rote learning.



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