Constructivism is a theory about knowledge and about learning. Knowledge is
defined as temporary, developmental, and socially and culturally mediated, therefore
subjective. Learning is a self- regulated process that resolves inner cognitive conflicts
through the aides of concrete experience, collaborative discourse, and reflection
(written). Learning takes place- is constructed- in the head of the learner by the leaner
(Brooks & Brooks, 1993).
Constructivism is defined as a theory about knowledge. Teaching and learning do
not describe the same experience. Teaching, and teaching well at that is not a
guarantee that students will learn (George, 1986). The constructivism model as a theory
about knowledge is summarized as: knowledge is constructed in the mind of the
learner. Traditionally knowledge is perceived as being a common sense notion that
exists regardless of whether everyone subscribes to it or not. However the
constructivism model essentially defines knowledge as being the construct the learner.
The learners therefore construct an understanding by applying meaning and reasoning
through assessment of regularity and order of events. They do not simply agree with
what they are told or what they read. Knowledge is therefore based on learners’
personal experiences and hypothesis of their own environment.
As a theory of learning, constructivism draws its understanding majorly from Jean
Piaget’s theory of learning. Learning is demonstrated as being an active process of
constructing knowledge. Learners are engaged in an active and continuous process of
assessing their personal experiences and hypothesis of the environment to gain an
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understanding of knowledge and this process is what is described as learning (Piaget,
2013). Each learner bears their own interpretation of what knowledge is and is involved
in a different learning experience from the others. Constructivism is not a theory about
teaching but about learning.
Constructivism is anchored on the notion that knowledge is both temporary and
developmental. This notion is supported by the fact that knowledge depends on the
individual as it is gained through an individual’s personal experiences. Because learning
is an active process, knowledge cannot be permanent. A learner’s prior knowledge is
enhanced as learning takes place, making knowledge developmental. During the
learning process, learners end up getting a deeper understanding of what knowledge is.
Knowledge is therefore not static and it changes overtime. Learning itself is a process of
continual construction and re-organization (Kim, 2005).
Constructivists suggest that knowledge is subjective; being that it is socially and
culturally mediated. Knowledge is grounded on social and cultural interactions. For
instance depending on the community the learner identifies with knowledge can be
arrived at through social interactions based on the culture and traditions of the
community. Knowledge is constructed from the learner’s perceptions and is mutually
agreed upon conviction. The learning process incorporates consciousness, free
thinking will and social influences. This process is aided by social interactions therefore
the learners draw from their social and cultural environments.
Constructivists argue that learning is a self- regulated process. Constructivism
acknowledges the learner’s active role in the entire learning process. It is the learner
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who constructs knowledge and its meaning and continually redefines it through his or
her interactions and past experiences through the process of re-organization. The
learner is actively involved and well aware of the learning experience. The learner is
therefore able to take charge of their learning.
According to constructivists, learning can resolve inner cognitive conflicts.
These conflicts are resolved through the aide of concrete experience, collaborative
discourse and lastly through reflection. The three constitute the various aspects of the
learning process. Inner cognitive conflicts must occur during the learning process. They
are part of the learning process. The concept of inner cognitive conflict is defined as a
state of disequilibrium whereby there is a lack of balance in the mental capacities. When
a learner is experiencing such conflicts it may lead to dissatisfaction with existing
knowledge. Although such conflicts aide the learning process in the long run, they can
temporarily disrupt the learning process by causing anxiety and confusion in the learner.
Collaborative discourse as a means of resolving cognitive conflicts entails
encouraging interactions between learners through active discussions preferably in
small groups. During the course of such discussions, the nature of the conflict is
defined, inadequate reasoning may also be exposed and eventually understanding is
achieved. Another way of resolving cognitive conflicts is through forming concrete
experience. This involves the learner going through a new experience that will help in
coming up with a new perception and clearer understanding thus resolve the existing
cognitive conflict. Reflection as a way of resolving cognitive conflict entails the learner
actively assessing concrete and specific information presented in a clear, detailed and
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reasoned manner to gain a clearer understanding. The information is usually in written
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Piaget, J. (2013). The construction of reality in the child(vol 82). Routledge
M.Bodner George(1986). Constructivism: A theory of Knowledge