Piaget believes that children actively construct knowledge through interaction with their environment (Power point).Constructivism means that most of learning experiences displayed by the child originate from inside the child. This got supported by Piaget’s reasoning of construction of knowledge. Previously, numerous teachers have used the term without knowing what it means, resulting to cases of misquotations, and wrong use of the word, for example, when using the term ‘construct’ they say that children construct a system of reading differently from how they construct their scientific understanding. This also got supported by Vgotsky who believed all human higher forms of mental activity get derived from their social and cultural contexts. Meaning interaction with the environment is inevitable (class notes).
Constructivism is extremely valuable when teaching based on it is to be undertaken. This can be deemed true because of the following three reasons: first, it is a theory that can be scientifically proven, and it explains both the origin and the nature of human knowledge and creativity. Secondly, it is the only theory, which gives clear explanations on how children construct their knowledge in the period of birth to adolescent and even adulthood. Lastly, it is a theory that gives more knowledge to teachers and parents on how Piaget differentiates among three different kinds of knowledge and how to apply skills in teaching subjects.
Piaget’s claim was that knowledge is not a state but an active process. Piaget wanted to study how science got evolved in foundation of cognitive and intellectual development, in human beings. He was not able to get the pre-historic evidence to help him do so, and the only data that was available to him were the children’s knowledge and ideas. For Piaget, the study of children was a way of elaborating the scope and nature of the human knowledge. He forwarded that for humans to construct knowledge, they must take part actively in the process of knowing and forming knowledge (power point).
Piaget discussed the kinds of knowledge to be social, physical and logico-mathematical knowledge. On physical, he explained that it could be the knowledge of objects that can be seen or any physical quality that could be identified through observation. On social knowledge, he explained that it would be what goes on in the environment of the child including the use of socially appropriate words. On logico-mathematical knowledge, he explained that it would consist of relationships created by different individuals, for example, if the learners would be presented with two objects to describe, they would describe the same objects presented differently (PowerPoint).
Vygotsky explains his view by placing more emphasis on social interactions that children engage themselves in with others and the environment. According to Lev Vygotsky, knowledge would not be constructed single handed, but it involves two or more people to be completed. All aspects that involve remembering, planning, problem solving and abstract thinking have something to do with a social origin. Teachers need to adjust class room learning experiences so as to acknowledge and make productive use of social histories of children’s different cultures (class notes).
Vygotsky described changes in children's cognitive development, in terms of their environment, and cultural tools that they use to explain their world. In Vygotsky's view, the environment and the society shapes the child's mind and behavior through the transmission of the culture, morals and ethics. Although the sociocultural perspective stresses cultural variation, neither Vygotsky nor his followers claimed universals of cognitive development (class notes).
Vygotsky argued that developmental changes in children's thinking can be discussed in terms of tools, which include cultural tools. These are things they use to make sense of their world; technical tools, these are things that could be put in use in order to change objects and also help in gaining mastery and more understanding about the environment; psychological tools, which become used to formulate and organize behavior. Meaningful learning occurs when people could be taught to use the tools of their culture. These tools would include language, mathematics, and problem strategies (class notes).
Vygotsky went ahead to explain that language was the most crucial of all psychological tools, and it influences the children's cognitive development. He explained three different stages that children go through as they use the language.
At first, whichever language they use is primarily for communication which can also be called a social speech. They begin to use an egocentric speech which majorly points out on them, and things that they believe to own; this helps them to regulate their own thinking. They also engage in talking aloud or in low tones at times while taking part in a task. In the final stage of the language development, they use their verbal thoughts to guide their thinking, behavior and actions.
Vygotsky severally used the term ‘zone of proximal development’ to refer to the difference between activities that children can perform on their own, and ones they can do when with others. In any case, an adult carefully provides the needed support and guidance; children are able to perform more complex activities than they can do when they are on their own (class notes).
Vygotsky describes learning as a relatively permanent change that occurs through the social interaction with other individuals that could be more competent. However, most current teachers in the classroom are unfamiliar with Vygotsky's argument, and do not know the way how to put them in use within the classroom.
He elaborates this stage of participation as being within the learner's zone of the proximal development. It is also the range between the difficulty level at where an individual can perform alone without help and solve a problem on his or her own, and the highest level at which he or she can perform when assisted to enable the achievement of better results.
Stages of Cognitive Development from Birth to Adolescence
Human beings develop and pass through different levels of thinking. As growth and development takes place, children start to think differently and behave in an entirely different manner from the way they used to when they were of a younger age.
To teach 4 year old children or any other age group of children, the designated teachers should first be able to understand how these children, whom they have in the class, have acquired knowledge and information that they already have, and try to establish an understanding between knowledge that these children have and the adult’s or adolescents knowledge.
Learning takes time and reflection. Piaget came up with two principles that guide children's intellectual and cognitive development and they include organization and adaptation. As children grow through stages of development, their knowledge schemes are also developing. Schemes are getting integrated and reorganized from simple into more complex systems, which are different and modified for their environment. Piaget stated that learning is built on structure of previous knowledge (power point).
Adaptation of knowledge schemes takes place through the process known as assimilation and accommodation. Through assimilation, children modify information to fit into already existing knowledge structures. Through accommodation, children interfere and change their schemes to come to a state of equilibrium which is the balance.
Piaget justified that both growth and development follow the regular sequence. He grouped human developmental stages into four groups. The early childhood years get grouped into two stages, and the middle and later years also into two stages. During the sensory motor period, which covers ages from birth to two years, children gain schemes for goal oriented behavior and object permanence starts to appear. During the preoperational stage which ranges from two to seven years, children begin to exercise the use of words, numbers, gestures and images in place of objects which are within their environment. They also begin to formulate intuitive theories to explain events, especially those that can have a lasting influence on learning. The main weaknesses and limitations of preoperational thinking include egocentrism, lack of conservation, and rigidity of thinking (power point).
During the elementary and high school years, there are also two additional stages. One of which is the concrete operational stage covering ages of seven to eleven. Children, who fall under this age bracket, start to employ the use of mental operations to help them think about events and objects that are within their environment. The mental operations include: classification, serialization and conservation. The second, formal operation stage and it ranges between ages of 11 years to adulthood. Both adolescents and adults can imagine and think about abstract objects, events and concepts.
They are able to use the propositional logic, deductive and inductive logic, and they also have an advanced level of reasoning. Individuals who are at the formal operational stage are also able to look at their thinking processes on their own, analyze it and change ideas during the thinking process, if they view them as inappropriate.
Application of constructivism in the classroom
When using constructivism as a method for handling a class, the teacher should act as a guide and facilitator for children. He or she provides a favorable environment and help children learn through scaffolding. The students should be given room to have with their own conclusions through their creativity.
The classroom should be set in such a way that it welcomes every child though they may be coming from different backgrounds. The materials displayed on the wall should be what they usually see in their environment and those that they have had seen before. The teacher should also give hands-on activities and allow children to apply their own creativity and critical thinking as they participate in the activities.
Every child should be trained on how to keep their daily journal and update it continuously. This would help them to understand how their personal experiences positively contribute to their observational notes. The learners should also be encouraged to compare their notes. This would help them realize that they come from different cultures and backgrounds and that each culture is unique, different and should be given due respect.
The teachers should support individual ability. They could do that by giving the learners enough time to answer questions in class and defend their thoughts and creations (class notes).
The teachers should ask open-ended questions to enable the children to think and give answers according to their personal experiences. A variety of materials should also be introduced as children learn well when stimulated visually. The roles and activities that the teachers give out should be assigned to the learners in groups and not individually.
The teacher should modify the curriculum so that it fits the learners’ developmental level. This helps to focus on individual learners and provide help whenever appropriate. The teacher should allow room for conversation between him or her and the learners. This makes the learners confident before the teacher, courageous and comfortable before their classmates (Class notes).
In the class, children should always be viewed as thinkers who have the potential for creativity and an ability to think. When learning begins, the teacher should introduce the lesson using a stimulating activity that would capture the children’s attention and make them excited about the lesson. The teacher should provide learner-centered activities within the lesson, to enable the children get the meaning of what they would be learning through their own point of view.
By the end of the lesson, there should be an assessment. In constructivism, the learners should be assessed through observation on the activity they would be taking part in and by exhibiting the work they have done. Assessment, according to constructivists should be carried alongside teaching and learning process.
Classroom set up
Educators should ensure that the children’s table and chair are of appropriate size and height before designing the class arrangement. The tables should be grouped in two ways so as to enable discussion in small groups and large groups.
The teachers’ area needs a lot of space to control congestion. The teachers table should be on the side of the class, and all the resources needed for the lesson should be placed on top of that table for easy assessing. The class arrangement should be done in a way that it allows room for movement without disturbing others. The learners should be organized in a way that allows all of them to see the teacher, all areas in the class and the whiteboard clearly.
Constructivist’s idea and argument are decent, one of which might see the improvement and may lead to another resurrection of progressive education. Education cannot be based on science alone, but if it keeps advancing, then we have to use human knowledge by the scientific experience already gained.
Both Piaget and Vygotsky have heavily contributed to the modern educational thought and the current conception of the human development. Piaget had time to introduce his way of thinking into the public structure of education. He is still widely acknowledged today.
The use of constructivists’ idea in class enables learners to appreciate the other classmates. They learn from one another as they discuss and share ideas (class notes). The class arrangement and setting allows for free movement and enables learners to appreciate the space they have and use it appropriately. They learn how to share materials as they work in groups and they appreciate each other’s contribution in all the discussions. Since the learners should be allowed to interact with the materials freely, they tend to learn a lot as compared to if the teacher would be telling them about the materials.