Constructivism was very popular in the 1930 and 1940s, based around two types of ‘construction’. The first being that we learn by constructing fresh knowledge in our heads from information learned, not from having it ‘given’ to us. Secondly, we learn exceptionally well when we are ‘constructing’ information that has sentimental meaning to us. Jean Piaget devised this theory. Piaget said that we cannot be assigned information and understand it, we must ‘construct’ our own understanding from the information given, intellectual growth. Experience is how we learn and through experience we can develop ‘schemas’.
A schema is a basic rule in our brains that is developed over time. New information is processed in how it fits in with these schemas. Schemas are used to interpret actions and events as well as predict situations and their consequences, for example when you can finish someone’s sentence for them because of the previous knowledge you have about the subject. Another example is, in early life, a child cannot find an object if a cup is put over them without them seeing, but can find it if the cup is put on the object in front of them. Piaget’s uses this example to state that at this point in its life, the child cannot comprehend the existence of two objects in the same place at the same time. But as it gets older, the child learns that this is possible and the schema is built on.
Schemas are enlarged and developed through the processes of assimilation and accommodation. Assimilation is when the person attempts to apply a schema or action to a new object they are not familiar with, effectively ‘assimilating’ a new object into an old schema, thus developing their schema in that field. For example, when driving a car unlike your own, at first it may feel strange and harder to drive. In time though, you will ‘get used’ to it and therefore your schema is enlarged. This is called accommodation.
Social Constructivism Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) was a developmental psychologist from Russia. He proposed that environment and culture surrounding children profoundly influences their development. He agrees with a more ‘discovery-orientated’ way of learning as opposed to ‘strict information feeding.’ Vygotsky describes this as the ‘Zone of Proximal Development’. This is the space between the learner’s present level of development and their potential level ‘ the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers’ (Vygotsky, 1978) Vygotsky maintained that we draw our knowledge from our experiences, both within our environment and our interactions socially.
All of us learn in different ways. There are many different learning styles and many ways of enhancing them we can adopt. The Experimental Learning Theory Devised by David A. Kolb, this theory states that after experiencing something, the subject will reflect upon it and make a conclusion about it, then from this conclusion, decide how to react to that situation or one like it in the future.