Thursday, October 6, 2011

Social Constructivism Learning Theory

According to Dr. Orey, social constructionism learning theory involves learners to be “actively engaged in constructing artifacts and conversing with others” (Laureate Education, Inc. 2011).  It “emphasizes the importance of culture and context in understanding what occurs in society and constructing knowledge based on this understanding” (Orey, 2001, p. 2)  Social constructivists believe that reality, knowledge, and meaningful learning is the result of social interaction.  There are four general perspectives that facilitate social constructivism learning.  The cognitive tools perspective focuses on producing a product in a group while gaining the meaning through the social learning process.  The idea-based social constructivism is building an important foundation of learners’ thinking and social meaning through “big ideas.”  The pragmatic or emergent approach is that through both an individual’s and an entire class’s view, knowledge, meaning, and understanding of the world is addressed.  The transactional or situated cognitive perspective focuses on relationships between people and the environment and views that “learning thus should not take place in isolation from the environment” (Orey, 2001, p. 4). 
Dr. Orey points out three key roles of learning theories. 
1.       Defines how learning occurs
2.      Provides information on future trends on which to build educational systems
3.      Explains what is occurring in the world today.
(Laureate Education, Inc., 2011)
In the book Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works the authors present cooperative learning as an instructional strategy.  Cooperative learning “focuses on having students interact with each other in groups in ways that enhance their learning (Pitler, Hubbell, Kuhn,& Malenoski, 2007).  The workplace today demands that students are able to not only be technology literate but be able to work cooperatively.  Cooperative learning has five basic components:  positive interdependence, face-to-face, promotive interaction, individual and group accountability, interpersonal and small-group skills, and group processing (Pitler et al, 2007, p. 140).  The instructional strategy of cooperative learning definitely has principles of social learning theories.
Technology can also be a tool that will enhance cooperative learning.  Technology can “facilitate group collaboration, providing structure for group tasks, and allowing members of groups to communicate even if they are not working face to face” (Pitler et al, 2007, p. 140).  Wikis and blogs I feel are two great examples of this.  They allow students to communicate, share ideas, and work on a project together, without having to be in the same place or working at the same time.  I am looking forward to using a wiki this year with my third graders to enhance their animal reports.
Another great technology activity to use with cooperative learning is WebQuests.  I am in the process of having my third graders work in groups of four to complete a WebQuest on animal life cycles.  The WebQuest provides them with all the directions, internet links, and evaluation rubric to help them complete the project.  Each member of the team is assigned a job.  The jobs help them to stay focused and not argue about what each is to be doing.  The jobs are task manager (keeps everyone on task), navigator (navigates the computer and clicks on the links), reader (reads the information to the group), and recorder (takes the notes).  I have them switch the roles each time we work so they experience each one.  Once they have completed the quest they have to present their information to the class, create a comic strip of their animal’s life cycle, and add any other information or pictures they think are useful and helpful.  This activity has the groups working together to learn about a particular animal’s life cycle but they have to in turn be able to teach it to the class.  Dr. Orey tells us “teaching others helps the learner to develop a deeper understanding of the content” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2011). 
Many other technology resources allow students to work cooperatively on projects as well.  Some examples are making videos, having keypals (I had also used the term e-pals), multiplayer simulation games, and Google Docs to name a few. There are so many opportunities in this technology driven world to provide our students with engaging technology based activities that will prepare them to be part of a “fast-paced, virtual workplace” where they will need to work cooperatively.  “Cooperative learning is not so much learning to cooperate as it is cooperating to learn” (Pitler et al, 2007, p. 143).
Most people are naturally social beings and therefore I feel that social constructivism learning theory is definitely valuable in the classroom.  However, I do feel that the other learning theories have a place in the classroom too.  Using components of all the learning theories will aid students to be successful and help prepare them to be a productive citizen of society. 
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program eight: Social learning theories [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2011). Program nine: Connectivism as a learning theory [Video webcast]. Bridging learning theory, instruction and technology. Retrieved from
Orey, M. (Ed.). (2001). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from
Pitler, H., Hubbell, E., Kuhn, M., & Malenoski, K. (2007). Using technology with classroom instruction that works. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

1 comment:

  1. Daneen,

    Great post! You stated some effective ways in which technology can benefit the academic progress of students. “Educational technology can play a unique and vital role in cooperative learning by facilitating group collaboration, providing structure for group tasks, and allowing members of groups to communicate even if they are not working face to face” (Pitler et al., 2007, p. 140). Technology tools such as Webquests, Keypals, web site development, and collaborative organizing tools can assist with facilitating engaging experiences which that will allow students to work collaboratively with others during the constructive phase of making connections.