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Constructivism In The Classroom

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Constructivism represents a paradigm shift form education based on cognitive theories. This concept assumes that learners construct their own knowledge on the basis of interaction with their environment. (Gagnon & Collay, 200?) The role of the teacher as a constructor of the learning experience to ensure authentic curriculum and assessment which is responsive to the skills, needs and experiences of the learner, within established curriculum framework and with the reference to the achievement of literacy, numeracy, retention and attainment of outcomes. Krause, Bochner and Duchesne (p.157) comment that "as learners interact with their environment, they link information learned through experience to previous knowledge, and so construct new understandings and knowledge." Constructivism then inturn encourages Teachers and Learning Managers to recognise the value of prior knowledge and experiences that each child brings with them into the classroom, and help them (the students) build on their understandings of the world by providing appropriate learning experience plans.

This practise of effective teaching and learning has relatively new in classrooms but has already made a great difference in the students' abilities and interests both in and out of their studies. Constructivist teaching recognises and validates the student's point of view rather then the necessity of a correct answer. The child is then able to reassess their knowledge and understandings, which in turn boosts self-esteem and confidence. It also encourages children to be involved in classroom activities by self-questioning, seeking answers, comparing situations and establishing links between different ideas. This is possible as constructive learning is transferable between different ideas. (Tutorial Notes, 28th July, 2004)

Jean Piaget (1896 - 1980), a Swiss psychologist, portrayed the child as a 'lone scientist', creating their own sense of the world. Their knowledge of relationships among ideas, objects and events is constructed by the active processes of internal assimilation, accommodation and equilibration. (Hughes, 2001). He also believed that we must understand the child's understandings of the world, and this should guide the teaching practises and evaluation. The fundamental basis of learning was discovery. To understand is reconstruct by discovery, and such conditions must be compiled with if, in the future, individuals are to be formed who are capable of production and creativity and not simply repetition of knowledge, or rope-learning. With this concept, Piaget believed that each person builds on the previous stage of cognitive development, increasing the child's ability to solve more complex problems. He then developed four main cognitive structures including Sensorimotor (0-2 Years), Preoperational (3-7 years), Concrete operational (8-11 years) and Formal Operational (12-15 years). (Genetic Epistemology (J. Piaget), 200?) These structures are patterns of physical or mental action that underlie specific acts of intelligence and correspond to the child's development.

These developmental stages change through the processes of adaptation: accommodation and assimilation. Assimilation involves interpretation of events in terms of existing cognitive structures where as accommodation refers to changing the cognitive structure to make sense of the environment. Piaget's theory has been criticised for relying exclusively on broad fixed, sequential stages through which all children progress, and for underestimating children' abilities, however he has important implications in today's education system. Piagetian principles are embedded in the curriculum and in effective teaching practices, and Piaget-influence concepts such as cognitive construction and developmentally appropriate instructions, guide education reforms. (Allyn & Bacon, 2000)

His theories have helped to develop the constructivist ideologies of teaching, which differ greatly from the traditional forms of teaching. During the traditional teaching methods, the lessons were very teacher-centred and the teachers were expected to be the 'gate-keepers of knowledge'. However, now, teachers are no-longer considered experts and the students are no-longer passive in their classes. They are active participants and provide

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