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constructing rather than acquiring knowledge

Constructivism is about learning being an active, contextualized process of constructing knowledge rather than acquiring it. The learner brings past experiences and cultural factors to a current situation and each person has a different interpretation and construction of the knowledge process.

Vygotsky’s (1978) theory is one of the foundations of constructivism. It asserts three major themes.

  1. Social interaction plays a fundamental role in the process of cognitive development. Vygotsky felt social learning precedes development and stated: Every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level, and later, on the individual level; first, between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological) (Vygotsky, 1978 page 57).
  2. The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO). The MKO refers to anyone who has a better understanding or a higher ability level than the learner, with respect to a particular task, process, or concept. The MKO is normally the teacher, or an older adult, but the MKO could also be a peer, a younger person, or even information from the internet.
  3. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). The ZPD is the distance between a learner’s ability to perform a task under adult guidance and/or with peer collaboration and their ability to solve the problem independently. According to Vygotzky, learning occurs in this zone.

Think of these themes as:

  1. what the learner can do
  2. what the learner can do with help from others
  3. what the learner can’t do yet but will attempt to do

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