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Constructionism in Practice

July 22, 2010

Generating and testing hypothesis is a great strategy in getting the students engaged and active in learning.  This strategy also correlates well with the learning theory of constructionism. 

Piaget is known as the “Father of Constructionism.”  constructionism is a theory of learning that states people when they build an external artifact or something they can share with others (Laureate 2008).  There are four main mechanisms for learning that Piaget detailed.  They are assimilation, accommodation, equilibration and it stored into what Piaget called schema. 

When students have to create a hypothesis, they are trying to fit the information into their current understanding or view (schema) of the concept.  This is what Piaget called assimilation.  “From what I know and believe of the material I believe this will happen.”  Many times when testing the hypothesis, the students thoughts or predictions are incorrect.  This puts the student unbalanced and uneasy about their current knowledge.  Humans look for balance and strive for it (Laureate 2008).  Piaget called this balance equilibration.  With their new information, the students will either assimilate the new material or accommodate it into a whole ew understanding (or schema) in their comprehension of the matter.  “When students generate and test hypotheses, they are engaging i complex mental processes, applying content knowledge like facts and vocabulary, and enhancing their overall understanding of the content (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K.  p. 202)

Technology can play a vital role in generating and testing hypothesis because of new developments in programs and software (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K.  p. 203).  Students today can spend more time interpreting data instead of gathering the data.  The theory of constructionism states that an artifact needs to be created for the student to learn best.  By using spread sheet software and data collection tools, the students can crate tables to not only show their fellow classmates, but also use the tables to study, make inferences, predictions and come up with solutions for the task at hand.  To relate it to constructionism… the students can use the artifacts to get back to equilibration!!! 

Dave McDivitt, a high school history teacher, used web resources to teach a unit on WWII.  At the same time, he used old-time, or more traditional methods to teach the same material.  The students who used the web resources scored higher on test and were also much more engaged in the learning process (Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K.  p. 214).  In the web resources, the students were having to accommodate and assimilate repeatedly to find equilibration on the subject and content. 

Constructionism wants the learner to be uncomfortable in the process of learning.  It also wants you (the learner) to create something to show off or display.  Technology can provide an avenue for this theory.  I can give to great examples of this in my personal experiences…  I can remember being so frustrated with his new program several years back and struggled with it mightily.  I never would get the concept and should give up on it.  However, I now use Power Point routinely in my class and the students love it when they are permitted to use it on an assignment. 

My other example is when we had to create a wiki page in a class not to long ago.  That was an interesting experience to sa the least.  I just kept thinking about my Power point experience knowing I would get the hang of it eventually.  I am still working on it…. :0)

Orey, M. (Ed.). (2008). Constructivist and Constructionist Learning Theory. Laureate Education, DVD. 

Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 23, 2010 2:50 pm

    Josh,
    Your example of the teacher used the web resources and compared them to the traditional way of teaching. How great of him to think of doing this study and learn from it.

    You know its funny, before this week I had not thought about how we acquire knowledge and how we want to feel that balance in our learning. We were in the same class when we had to do the wiki assignment and I felt the same way as you did. Ugh, I became so frustrated with that assignment and didn’t have any background knowledge to help me and it really put me off. I remember wanting to quit and just forget about the assignment, but I stuck with it and through that exploration process I learned a lot and now I feel much more comfortable with the wiki…definitely not an expert!

    Nice post!

    • July 25, 2010 9:15 pm

      I am no expert either for sure, but definitely more comfortble.

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