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Constructivist Theory in Simple Terms

Some authors divide constructivist theory into two main areas: cognitive constructivism, which focuses on the individual learner, and social constructivism, which emphasizes learning as occurring within the context of dialogue and social interaction.

Cognitive constructivism based on the work of educational psychologists like Piaget, who views knowledge as being created through experience. Knowledge is not transferred from teacher to student in a ready-made format, but actively built by each learner. The internet makes this process much easier than in a non-wired classroom. By using hyperlinks, educators can connect to several resources, scaffolding students’ construction of knowledge.

Social constructivism looks at learning from a social perspective. The Vygotskian concept of zone of proximal development is an appropriate example. It stresses elements of learning which cannot be accounted for by a learner’s own intellectual activity, but grounded in interpersonal exchange. As students engage in discussion and social interaction they construct their knowledge by considering other peoples’ opinions and actions. Educators have the opportunity to “eavesdrop� on ideas that are going back and forth between students, give feedback and guide student understanding.

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