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Knowledge Is Socially Constructed

February 6, 2010

Knowledge is socially constructed.  Without active learning, students may encounter a disconnect from the classroom to life.  “Nearly every definition of constructivism refers to knowledge construction rather than reproduction.  That is, learners should actively engage in building knowledge structures.  Meaning, as evaluators, we need to focus on learning outcomes that will reflect the intellectual processes of knowledge construction.” (Duffy & Jonassen, 1992)  If we dismiss the notion of active learning, our audience may absorb information but be unable to think critically about its meaning and applications.  As a teacher, it is meaningless to create lessons that do not engage our students and require active participation in the thinking process. 

Active learning requires participation from both teacher and student.  Instruction and activities must allow students to engage in instruction and outcomes.  David Jonassen provides this list of design principles for an active learning environment:

  1. Create real-world environments that employ the context in which learning is relevant.
  2. Focus on realistic approaches to solving real-world problems.
  3. The instructor is a coach and analyzer of the strategies used to solve these problems.
  4. Stress conceptual interrelatedness, providing multiple representations or perspectives on the content.
  5. Instructional goals and objectives should be negotiated and not imposed.
  6. Evaluation should serve as a self-analysis tool.
  7. Provide tools and environments that help learners interpret the multiple perspectives of the world.
  8. Learning should be internally controlled and mediated by the learner. (Jonassen, 1991)

The development of knowledge required active participation in the academic process.  This is a cooperative endeavor between teacher and student.  John Dewey stated, “I believe that the only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself in.” (Dewey, 1897)  Socially constructed knowledge enables students to look beyond what is being presented to them and apply “real-world” situations to connect meaning.  There is a transfer from classroom to life and promotes life-long learning. 

Works Cited

Dewey, J. (1897). My Pedagogic Creed. School Journal , 77 – 80.

Duffy, T. M., & Jonassen, D. H. (1992). Constructivism and the Technology of Instruction: A Conversation. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Jonassen, D. (1991). Evaluating Constructivist Learning. Educational Technology , 28 – 33.

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