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Posted on Nov 28, 2011 in Blog, Constructivism, In my Opinion!, Learning Theories, Social Learning Theory | 0 comments

Constructivism and Social Learning Theory

Constructivism and Social Learning Theory


According to Dr. Ormrod  “the zone of proximal development for any learner is this range of activities that are difficult but not impossible and which you can do if you have a little bit of help. And this help often comes from somebody who’s a little bit more knowledgeable or maybe a lot more knowledgeable than you are about the topic or the task or the activity. That person is going to give you some guidance, is going to give you some structure, and is going to give you some help”

The concept of the ZPD generally illustrates Vygotsky concern with the role of assistance or instruction and also of assessment.

I have looked at the different approaches and decided to look into different the different factors of the educational constructivism which can be identified as follows:

All knowledge is part of human construction – we capable of constructing knowledge

The individual creates knowledge and develops concepts – it recognizes a relationship between prior knowledge/experience and sensory input.

And points of views can be only be partially judged according to their cultural setting, but should be taken into consideration

There are subsets within constructivist thought (Piagetians/Radicals/Inductionists vs. Vygotskyians/Socio-Constructivists).

Constructivism theory had actually crossed my path in my professional years. I was working at a school at the time and was responsible for developing a life skills project for Grade 1 and 2 the topic being of how to say ‚no‘. I used a lot of the theory’s approach in defining the goal of the learner first and how we can get there. I decided, and this was quite a new approach at the time (1999) to combine different age groups to tackle some concrete learning tasks within the learning modules. So what I was trying to do is to define the Zone of Proximal development within the age groups. So here, was the question of defining, how much does a child know and should know (so basically I stuck to the curriculum given at the time) and what these children could actually achieve by sharing and solving other defined tasks (which here again, I took the standards or learning outcomes as an indicator). It needed to be of course realistic, but sufficiently challenging.

Even in the above example of my professional experience I can also assure you that all theories were combined in this particular project. The behaviorist view played a key role in also evaluating the behavioral development in a defined situation. The actual didactical methods we used came both from the behavior theory as well as the cognitive theory. We made them learn thing in short sentences so they could remember. After they had filled out several worksheets individually, the learners had started to memorize the several situations where a “no” would be good thing to say. The cognitive approach was then to stick a story to the “no” situation, so they can actually relate to the task. In some stages a grade one learner cannot just imagine things, so here the learners from grade two assisted in doing all sorts of things, like acting a situation out in a role play. It even went as far as one group composing a little rap about saying no.

So I think going back to the constructivism approach there is a lot that can be used in a real learning environment, and perhaps when taking out the dispute over the scientific value to the theory I think Piaget’s approach of focusing on the development of reasoning and logical thinking, at least leaves me, with an accessible explanation in regards to social constructivism.

According to McMahon, social constructivism emphasizes the importance of culture and context in understanding what occurs in society and constructing knowledge based on this understanding. „Social constructivism is based on specific assumptions about reality, knowledge, and learning. To understand and apply models of instruction that are rooted in the perspectives of social constructivists, it is important to know the premises that underlie them. “

Vygotsky’s approach that „Intersubjectivity not only provides the grounds for communication but also supports people to extend their understanding of new information and activities among the group members Knowledge is derived from interactions between people and their environments and resides within cultures (Schunk, 2000; McMahon, 1997).

Are these two approaches really opposing each other? Can we not use both approaches in an educational setting? I believe that Piaget’s stages of development can definitely assist in defining Vygotsky’s ZPD of a learner with in a defined setting.


Video Program: “Theory of Social Cognitive Development” Dr. Jeanne Ormrod discusses Vygotsky’s theory of social cognitive development and defines the Zone of Proximal Development.

Brooks, J., & Brooks, M. (1999). In search of understanding: The case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA:  Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

McMahon, M. (1997, December). Social Constructivism and the World Wide Web – A Paradigm for Learning. Paper presented at the ASCILITE conference. Perth, Australia

Kim, B. (n.d.). Social Constructivism. Technology Retrieved from: index.php?title=Social_Constructivism#Citation

Schunk, D. (2010). Learning Theories: An Educational Perspective (5th ed., p. 576). Pearson.

Ormrod, J., Schunk, D., & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning theories and instruction (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.


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