What is constructivism?
Constructivism is a philosophy of learning that "refers to the idea that learners construct knowledge for themselves---each learner individually (and socially) constructs meaning---as he or she learns (Hein, 1991, p.1). In other words, "students construct their own knowledge based on their existing schemata and beliefs"(Airasian & Walsh, 1997, p.1) Constructivists deny the existence of one "true" body of knowledge that exists independently of the learners and espouse the idea that "there is no knowledge independent of the meaning attributed to experience (constructed) by the learner, or community of learners (Hein, 1991, p.1). Knowledge is "a personal and social construction of meaning out of the bewildering array of sensations which have no order or structure besides the explanations...which we [the learners] fabricate for them (Hein, 1991, p.1). To construct a meaning to the philosophy of constructivism, the misunderstandings of constructivism, its value in the world of teaching, and its influence in instructional technology will be discussed.
Misunderstandings lead to an Understanding
Because constructivism is sometimes viewed as a new pedagogy rather than a new philosophy of learning, many incorrect assumptions are made about its implications and applications to learning and the learners. By examining some of the misunderstandings surrounding constructivism, one can gain an understanding of the nature of constructivism and how its implications can be successfully applied to teaching.
The first myth of constructivism is that "students should always be actively and reflectively constructing"(Clements, 1997, p.1). The constructivists view learning as "an active process in which the learner uses sensory input and constructs meaning out of it"(Hein, 1991, p.2). Although constructivism implies that the instructor should not view the learners as blank slates onto which knowledge will be transmitted, but rather as carriers of a foundation of knowledge and experiences that they will bring to all learning situations if actively involved, there are still several methods in which to help students construct meaning. These methods include "time for ‘experiencing’; for ‘intuitive learning’; for learning by listening; for practice; and for conscious, reflective thinking"(Clements, 1997, p.1). All of these activities may not require a physical or verbal interaction between the instructor and learner and/or the learner and the community of learners, but all of these activities do require the learner to be actively reflecting on the information being shared. Instructors must provide learning opportunities that are hands-on as well as opportunities of learning that engage the learners’ minds as well.
A second myth or misunderstanding is that "memorization and rote learning [are] useless" (Hein, 1991, p.3). Quite simply, there is certain knowledge that can not be received by the learner any other way....