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Social constructivism is loosely the belief that true learning comes from interaction. In the classroom, this translates to changing the focus from the teacher to the students. It challenges the conventional mode of learning where the teacher pours their knowledge into the students who are passive learners in the setting, who wait like empty vessels to be filled. In the constructivist classroom, students are required to be actively involved in their own learning process, such that the teacher takes more of a managerial role and guides the students throughout the class hours.
THE SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVIST CLASSROOM
In the constructivist setting, knowledge is not regarded as facts that need to be memorized, rather it is our ability to comprehend the dynamic and ever-changing view of our world. The constructivist approach to learning makes a few assumptions:
- Even if students are present in the same classroom, they will attribute their learning and understanding to what is personal to them.
- The student’s beliefs regardless of being correct or incorrect are integral to the learning process.
- You can not build understanding just by hearing or reading something. It is a continuous and active effort.
- Learning can ensue conceptual changes.
- Learning is not a passive process, rather it is an active process and depends on students interacting with one another to actively solve problems.
In the constructivist classroom, the main goal is not to cover a chapter in a book or to complete counting from 1 to 10, the goal is to solve problems. And these problem-solving activities have to be student-centric. Meaning that we do not expect the teacher to solve them on the board or to ask students to solve a problem using memorized formulae, but for them to collaboratively use their collective minds to utilize resources and draw conclusions while leveraging each other’s knowledge.
Imagine the classroom that embraces social constructivism to be in the form where the teacher is a mediator who guides and structures peer interactions among students. In such a setting, learning is promoted through discussions concerning specific concepts that the teacher guides through directed questions and references to previously covered concepts.
Now that we understand that the teacher serves as a guide on the side, we also need to understand the students’ role in social constructivism. The student is expected to actively participate in their own learning and in discussions with peers. They are supposed to give significant importance to the viewpoints of both their instructors and their peers and have to be willing to view knowledge from different lenses.
USING SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVISM IN THE CLASSROOM
Social constructivism is more of a practice that has to be applied wholly to your teaching method. Regardless, to have an idea of what can constitute to good social constructive practices we list a few of them below:
In reciprocal teaching, you as a teacher will want to take a group of students and have them collaboratively discuss or solve a problem. Turn by turn each student will lead and will have the chance to give his solution to the group. As a teacher, you will be meditating to ensure the group has positive discussions and does not stray too far away from the topic. Since elementary graders can not be expected to lead alone, you will be lending them a little extra help by preparing materials that they can use during discussions such as flashcards or pictures, or any other relevant material.
Reciprocal groups generally focus on questioning, summarizing, clarifying, and predicting. By doing this you gradually build your students to be able to subsume more responsibility. This can help develop some key life skills, such as critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, and communication.
Cooperative learning is not just about splitting your class into groups but helping them understand the importance of each individual for the whole. In the elementary classroom, you can employ the jigsaw technique to achieve this. The jigsaw technique breaks a task down such that the success of a task is dependent on key sub-tasks. For example, you can break down your class into groups and each group is responsible for a specific task, such as building a LEGO house. One group is in charge of building the base of the house, the other the walls and another the roof. Without the success of each group, the structure cannot be put together.
In social constructivism, situated learning addresses the way students absorb knowledge. It argues that students need to receive knowledge in a meaningful context to retain information. Meaning whenever explaining or asking questions always put forward information-rich scenarios that use real-world information with a relatable object as its subject. Such as if you’re trying to teach your students’ addition use something that they are familiar with as an example such as M&Ms.
Another pillar of constructivism is anchored instruction. This approach tried to make students more actively engaged by ‘anchoring’ instruction around an interesting topic. The topic and environment are both designed in a manner that provokes thoughtful engagement and critical thinking on the students’ part.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Social Constructivism is one of the ideas behind active learning. How students respond to different kinds of learning methods is of great interest to educators as we are always looking for the most efficient method of relaying information to our younger generation. You should take care when moving from the passive mode of teaching to the constructive mode. As an abrupt change might offset what your students are used to. Instead, opt for gradual change which will also give you the opportunity to reflect and fine-tune your delivery methods.