Since taking Dr. Dabbagh's class (EDIT 730), I am convinced the constructivist approach to learning is often misunderstood, underrated, and as a result, underutilized (based on my own personal experience to date). Practitioners of constructivist strategies view learners as complex beings who bring a vast collection of existing knowledge, experiences, and background all of which contribute to the way we perceive, process, and synthesize new knowledge.
I have always been an experiential learner. Prior to beginning my journey in the IDD program, I recognized throughout my secondary and undergraduate career that I learn best when challenged by my instructors to seek out and discover the information I needed to execute a task. Empowering the learner by creating an environment conducive to the fundamental activities that constitute a constructivist model is an effective way to compel learners to activate higher order thinking skills. By encouraging them to do so, ultimately results in higher potential for cognitive transfer and lower attrition rates.
The graphic above depicts my perception of the constructivist framework. In this framework, the instructor(s) or expert(s) are there to facilitate by:
- Designing/Developing Constructivist Learning Environment (CLE)
- Serving as coaches and/or mentors
- Scaffolding learners using the Socratic methodology
Learners are responsible for tapping into their own existing knowledge and experiences, taking advantage of the tools provided by the environment, engaging in the opportunity to exchange ideas with group members to collaborate, argue, negotiate, and come to a consensus thus producing new knowledge.
As demonstrated in a Community of Practice (CoP), the new knowledge is challenged, deconstructed, analyzed, negotiated further by other (typically the more advanced) members of the community to test its validity. This framework is cyclical and grows deeper, wider, and sturdier as more and more members contribute to this growing consensus. In all instances, the goal is to bridge a gap referred to as the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and to promote new knowledge.
Though I fervently support the many of the models afforded by this paradigm, I must confess that it is not the only solution to every learning problem. Objectivist learning has its place and advantages however; as it largely permeates our education system I feel we are doing ourselves and our learners, clients, and servicemen a disservice for lack of considering alternative approaches.