Explain the Constructivist Theory of Guidance

Topics: Jean Piaget, Developmental psychology, Zone of proximal development Pages: 5 (1396 words) Published: July 22, 2012
Explaining Guidance Theories: Developmental, Behavioral, Constructivist. Question: Explain Constructivist theory of guidance.

Constructivism is rooted from philosophy just like sociology, ethnography and cognitive psychology. Already in the eighteenth century, the German philosopher Kant believed that a child’s learning was an interaction between the developing child and the environment. He believed that children constructed their own knowledge and understanding about things. This is a constructivist view of how children learn (Bruce, Meggitt & Grenier 2010). The child-centered constructivist approach to early childhood education has its roots in the work of psychologists Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934) and Jean Piaget (1896-1980). “Piaget's theories in child development, cognition and intelligence worked as a framework to inspire the development of the constructivist approach to learning.”(http://www.ehow.com/info_8541570_differences-vygotsky-piaget-teaching.html).

Piaget believed that children go through four stages of development: (1) the Sensori- Motor, (from birth to 2 years), (2) the Pre-operational (age 2-7), (3) the Concrete Operational (age 7-12), and the Formal Operational (age 12-15 years) (Piaget in Bruce, Meggitt, Grenier 2010). A child goes through stages and sequences in her/his learning and, regardless of social background and must go through each stage of cognitive development in succession to gain knowledge. Piaget believed that it is through play that children learn and make sense of the reality that surrounds them. He later (1985) expanded this theory to explain how new information is shaped to fit with the learner's existing knowledge, and existing knowledge is itself modified to accommodate the new information. The major concepts in this cognitive process include the following: (1) Assimilation (taking in new information which is compared with existing cognitive structures). (2) Accommodation (occurs when existing schemes or operations must be modified to account for a new experience.). (3) Equilibration (the process which encompasses both assimilation and accommodation) http://psychology.about.com/od /piagetstheory/a/keyconcepts.htm.

Vygotsky agreed with Piaget regarding the constructive nature of intellectual development. Piaget, however, saw the importance in leaving the child alone as much as possible to enable her/him to freely explore the world without limitation. Two important principles in Vygotzky’s theories are the ‘zone of potential or proximal development’ and ‘scaffolding’ (http://www.aare.edu.au/06pap/sub06080.pdf).

Vygotzky stressed the importance of the zone of proximal development, a level of development attained when the child engages in social behavior. The child must actively interact socially with a knowledgeable adult such as the teacher, parents and/or more-advanced peers who can help the child to learn something that would be too difficult for the child to do on his or her own (http://www.aare.edu.au/06pap/sub06080.pdf). As the child’s competence increases, the teacher provides less guidance. With the acquired knowledge the child eventually comes up with /her/his own solutions to problems. This zone of proximal development can be reached by the child by means of play (Bruce, Meggitt, Grenier, 2010). Once the child can do without help from anyone s/he has reached the zone of actual development, thus having provided scaffolding to the child’s development. Because Vygotsky believed that social relationships are at the heart of a child’s learning, his theory is called the social constructivist theory.

Constructivism can be divided into cognitive constructivism and social constructivism. Regardless of philosophical differences, however, all views of constructivism imply that all teachers need to go beyond lecturing and telling as a teaching method.

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