Social Constructivism

“You never anything absolutely from scratch.”

Lev Vygotsky founder of the Social Constructivist Theory, or Zone Development Theory (ZDP) believed that students:

  • Use their past experience to create a basis for new ones
  • Build on prior knowledge to create a foundation of understanding for new knowledge
  • Use both new and past experiences/knowledge to create a solidified understanding for new content

The core of constructivism  is that students are actively branching their own knowledge and understanding from past experiences. This theory encourages student-centred learning. Students are believed to learn better when they are stimulated with their own prior knowledge to discover things independently, rather than what is written on the board or instructed. Social Constructivism strays from the more traditional objectivist strategies. The student must play an active role in the direction of their own learning rather than being spoon fed information and content.

Ideas to implement into a classroom:

  • Before starting a new topic, ask students what they know about it
  • Use what they know to create a foundation of understanding and build on it!
  • Involve students in learner centred activities. This allows them to think critically and draws on prior knowledge to connect with the next content given
  • Encourage students to ask their own questions, carry out their own experiments, make their own analogies and come to their own conclusions

Alternatively, as teachers you will come across on the rare occasion where you will have to teach a whole new idea or concept where a student has never seen or heard about it . However, you can use the social constructivist model. You can provide examples and analogies that are relative to the real world. This then allows the student to visualise it and relate that concept to the real world.

Social Constructivism is a useful way to assist students with learning a new topic. It provides a basis for new content and allows their education to become a more personal experience.

Reference: Journal Article 


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