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What is constructivism?
How does this theory differ from traditional ideas about teaching and learning?
What does constructivism have to do with my classroom?
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What is the history of constructivism, and how has it changed over time?
What are some critical perspectives?
What are the benefits of constructivism?



What is the history of constructivism, and how has it changed over time?


As long as there were people asking each other questions, we have had constructivist classrooms.  Constructivism, the study of learning, is about how we all make sense of our world, and that really hasn't changed. - Jaqueline Grennon Brooks (1999)

The concept of constructivism has roots in classical antiquity, going back to Socrates's dialogues with his followers, in which he asked directed questions that led his students to realize for themselves the weaknesses in their thinking. The Socratic dialogue is still an important tool in the way constructivist educators assess their students' learning and plan new learning experiences.

In this century, Jean Piaget 1 and John Dewey 2 developed theories of childhood development and education, what we now call Progressive Education, that led to the evolution of constructivism.

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Piaget believed that humans learn through the construction of one logical structure after another. He also concluded that the logic of children and their modes of thinking are initially entirely different from those of adults. The implications of this theory and how he applied them have shaped the foundation for constructivist education.

Dewey called for education to be grounded in real experience. He wrote, "If you have doubts about how learning happens, engage in sustained inquiry: study, ponder, consider alternative possibilities and arrive at your belief grounded in evidence." Inquiry is a key part of constructivist learning.

Among the educators, philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists who have added new perspectives to constructivist learning theory and practice are Lev Vygotsky 3, Jerome Bruner 4, and David Ausubel 5.

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Vygotsky introduced the social aspect of learning into constructivism. He defined the "zone of proximal learning," according to which students solve problems beyond their actual developmental level (but within their level of potential development) under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers.

Bruner initiated curriculum change based on the notion that learning is an active, social process in which students construct new ideas or concepts based on their current knowledge.

Seymour Papert's 6 groundbreaking work in using computers to teach children has led to the widespread use of computer and information technology in constructivist environments.

Modern educators who have studied, written about, and practiced constructivist approaches to education include John D. Bransford 7, Ernst von Glasersfeld 8, Eleanor Duckworth 9, George Forman 10, Roger Schank 11, Jacqueline Grennon Brooks 12, and Martin G. Brooks 13.


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Workshop: Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning
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