Constructivism and Inquiry: Theoretical background to the Learning Cycle

Topics: Scientific method, Knowledge, Science Pages: 4 (1382 words) Published: January 27, 2014
Constructivism and Inquiry: Theoretical background to the Learning Cycle The objective of science education or any type of education for that matter is meaningful learning. Several theories exist as to how meaningful learning can be achieved but the dominant prevailing theory in Western education is that of constructivism. The basic idea behind constructivism is that “humans construct knowledge as opposed to knowledge being transmitted into their minds” (Chiappetta, Koballa & Collette, 1998, p.70). The conception of learning is core to the constructivist philosophy. Von Glaserfield (1995) argues that “from the constructivist perspective, learning is not a stimulus-response phenomenon. It requires self regulation and the building of conceptual structures through reflection and abstraction” (p.14). Fosnot (1996) adds that “rather than the behaviours or skills as the goal of instruction, concept development and deep understanding are the foci”(p.10). The implication of all of this is that constructivist learning is not product driven but process oriented: how one proceeds to the answer is of crucial importance and not so much how the “right objective” answer is retrieved. Like many other theories, constructivism is not a single perspective but there are several defining features as described by Elliot, Kratochwill, Littlefield-Cook and Travers (2000): “(1) students are viewed as active knowledge seekers, creating their own personal understanding of information; (2) students’ hypotheses, questions and views are accepted and used to guide further learning and (3) students often work collaboratively” (p.262). Contrary to criticism by some traditional educators, constructivism does not negate the active role of the teacher. The constructivist approach modifies that role so that teachers help students to construct knowledge rather than produce a series of facts. Teachers are therefore viewed as “guides for student learning” (Elliot et al., 2000,...
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