Jerome Bruner

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Jerome Bruner was born in New York City on October 1, 1915. He attended and received his B.A. from Duke University in 1937 and his Ph.D from Harvard University in 1941. As an American psychologist, he has contributed greatly to cognitive psychology and the cognitive learning theory in educational psychology, as well as to history and the general philosophy of education. He was on the faculty in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University from 1952 – 1972. He published his book “The Process of Education” in 1960. This book influenced many young researchers and led to a great deal of experimentation and a wide range of educational programs. In the early 70’s, he left Harvard University to become a tutor at the University of Oxford up until 1979, after which he returned to Harvard University. Later he joined the New York University of Law, where he became a Senior Researcher (at the age of 93).

Jerome Bruner is one of the founding fathers of Constructivist Theory. Constructivism is an extensive theoretical framework with several perspectives, and Bruner's is only one. Bruner's hypothetical framework is based on the theme that learners create new ideas or concepts based upon existing knowledge. Learning is an active process. Aspects of the process include selection and transformation of information, decision making, generating hypotheses, and making meaning from information and experiences. Jerome Bruner believes that teachers need:

To understand the relationship between motivation and learning; •To understand how structure relates to the whole;
To learn to form “global concepts”;
To learn how to build “coherent patterns” of learning; •To understand that facts without meaning are not learned; and •To believe that any subject can be taught to any child. (“Any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development” (Bruner, 1960, p. 33).

Four Key themes emerged in Bruner's early work. These were: a)the Structure which refers to relationships among factual elements and techniques. b)the Spiral Curriculum which refers to the idea of reiterating basic ideas over and over, building upon them and elaborating on the concepts to the level of full understanding and mastery. Bruner believed that any subject could be taught at any stage of development in a way that fit the child's cognitive abilities. c)intuitive and analytical thinking which Bruner considered should both be rewarded and encouraged. d)motivation for learning which he felt that interest in the subject matter was the best stimulus for learning. 'Ideally', Jerome Bruner writes, interest in the material to be learned is the best stimulus to learning, rather than such external goals as grades or later competitive advantage' (ibid.: 14).

The following are the four features of Bruner’s Theory of Instruction. a)Predisposition to learn: This aspect in particular states the experiences which move the learner toward a love of learning in general, or of learning something specifically. Motivational, cultural, and personal factors contribute to this. Bruner accentuated social factors and early teachers’ and parents' influence on this. He believed learning and problem solving emerged out of exploration. Part of the task of a teacher is to preserve and guide a child's natural explorations. b)The Structure of Knowledge: In this feature, he believes that it is possible to structure knowledge in such a way that enables the learner to more readily grasp the information. c)Modes of Representation: He believes that children go through three stages of intellectual development or main changes before reaching maturity. These are: the enactive stage; the iconic stage; and the symbolic stage. (i)The enactive stage: “knowledge is stored primarily in the form of motor responses.” (Alexander 2002). In this stage, children learn through the...
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