2. Social-Constructivism Theory Paper: Module 2 Reflection

Social-constructivism recognizes the learning process as relational and built upon contexts found in every day living.  Learners construct new means of understanding by integrating both existing and created knowledge through social discussions and validation (Anderson & Dron, 2011).  Since we live within a culture, and have our own personal history and belief system, we all learn a little differently based on these aspects along with our own previous knowledge of the material that is being learned (ianr3128, 2007).
Built upon the foundations of constructivism, founded primarily by Piaget (Anderson & Dron, 2011), social-constructivism includes communities students are apart of as part of the learning process (ianr3128, 2007).  John Dewey, Jerome Bruner and Lev Vygotsky are the main contributors in forming the social facet of constructivism (CustomTeach, 2009).  “Social-constructivist pedagogy acknowledges the social nature of knowledge and of its creation in the minds of individual learners” (Anderson & Dron, 2011).
Learning within a community (Spector, 2001) and building on previous knowledge are only a few principles found in social-constructivism.  Other major principles include actively participating in a “discovery-oriented process” instead of a passive role (Overbay, Patterson, Vasu, & Grable, 2010), using several different language tools to construct the knowledge base, and creating a learner-centered environment with which to learn in (Anderson & Dron, 2011).  It is within the social constructivism pedagogy that the teacher’s role changes from traditional drill and practice, to more of a facilitator and guide (CustomTeach, 2009).  Instead of asking questions that have one answer, teachers more likely ask open-ended questions that encourage discussion.  Students are encouraged to use tool-kits to help guide them through processes, and build their own mental structures (Conole, Dyke, Oliver, & Seale, 2004).  Teachers do not directly teach as much as they direct students in justifying and explaining why they believe the way they do about their answers (Richardson, 2001).
Much study has been done in using a social-constructivist approach in teaching mathematics.  Using examples and context taken from real world problems helps students connect with the concepts they are learning (Sanders, 2009).  Investigating a real world scenario and the math within it helps students see how math is used outside the classroom.  Periodically coming back to the same scenario, yet learning different math concepts, builds on previous knowledge.  Students investigate, as a group, using manipulatives to simulate a scenario and work together to solve different questions provided.  Questions are mainly open ended, explanations, and double checking procedures. Connections with graphs, tables, and rules help students decide which method they understand the most and how it all works together.  There is not a right or wrong answer to these questions as long as students learn different methods to solving the same type of math problem.
Social-constructivism is changing the way math is taught and is proving to help students understand main concepts, how it is used in several different career fields, and connecting math with other subjects as well .  New theories using math and technology are founded daily because of the foundations of social-constructivism (Sanders 2009).

References:
Anderson, T., & Dron, J. (2011, March 25). Three generations of distance education pedagogy. Text.Serial.Journal, . Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/890/1663

Conole, G., Dyke, M., Oliver, M., & Seale, J. (2004). Mapping pedagogy and tools for effective learning design. Computers & Education, 43(1-2), 17-33. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2003.12.018

CustomTeach. (2009, March 29).  Theories of learning.  Retrieved from http://youtu.be/Vq9XIrNGgoQ

ianr3128. (2007, April 3).  Introduction to learning theories.  Retrieved from http://youtu.be/hsX5Tq3WTBw

Overbay, A., Patterson, A. S., Vasu, E. S., & Grable, L. L. (2010). Constructivism and technology use: findings from the IMPACTing Leadership project. Educational Media International, 47(2), 103-120. doi:10.1080/09523987.2010.492675

Richardson, V. (1997). Constructivist teacher education: building new understandings. Psychology Press.

Sanders, M. (2009). STEM, STEM Education, STEMmania. Technology Teacher, 68(4), 20-26.

Spector, J. M. (Jul-Sep2001). Philosophical implications for the design of instruction. Instructional Science, 29(4/5), 381-402.

Reflection:

Reading all the different articles, watching the different videos, and reading the textbook really brought to light how much I use social-constructivism in my classroom. We use an integrated approach in teaching mathematics at our school in the secondary levels. I use 3 completely different textbooks, all with different producers and yet all with a social-constructivist method for teaching math. It is a completely different way of teaching then the way I was taught growing up. The traditional way of learning math used the behaviourist theory of drill and practice. It was quite a transition from what I thought I would do and how I teach now. However, I am feeling really good with the curriculum we use and the approach we take as it is proving to be the most affective, according to research recently done.
One of the transitions my 7th grade students have to make from the elementary classroom is going from the behaviorist approach, loads of drill and practice, to an integrated process. The philosophy on the elementary side of the building is very drill oriented (daily mad minutes). The teacher tells the students exactly what they want them to do and the students do it. Moving from the elementary philosophy to our secondary, constructivist approach, students are not used to thinking how to came up with an answer, or what the process is, or coming up with their own process. This is an extremely difficult transition for some students. It comes across as abstract. They are using brain muscles they haven’t used before. So many of my 7th grade students are not used to thinking for themselves but are used to being “spoon fed” the process. Because of this transition, I have to teach extremely slow and guide them in their thinking. Each grade level I teach has a better understanding of what is expected. They become stronger in thinking about process and multiple ways of finding the same answers. It was very interesting to me to make the connections of different theories to not only my classroom but the differences within my building and the approaches that are being taught depending on the grade level of the students.
Some of the quotes I enjoyed in the multiple readings included:

  • Integrative STEM education pedagogy is inherently learner-centered and knowledge-centered (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000), and when used with groups of learners, provides a remarkably robust environment for the social interaction so critical to the learning process (Sanders, 2009)
  • …learning is located in contexts and relationships rather than merely in the minds of individuals (Anderson and Dron, 2011)
  • Teaching presence in constructivist pedagogical models focuses on guiding and evaluating authentic tasks performed in realistic contexts (Anderson and Dron, 2011)
  • Teachers do not merely transmit knowledge to be passively consumed by learners; rather, each learner constructs means by which new knowledge is both created and integrated with existing knowledge (Anderson and Dron, 2011)
  • The teacher’s role is not solely that of a content expert but rather a learning and problem-solving expert. Hence, the teacher’s job is to coach and model learning and problem-solving by asking questions that students should be asking themselves. (text)
  • Work is collaborative and social (text).
  • Designing a learning environment begins with identifying what is to be learned and, reciprocally, the real world situations in which the activity occurs (text).

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