Humans are pattern-detecting beings.
Constructivism is the idea that we build meaning through experiential and adaptive learning that challenges and expands our schemas (or mental frameworks). Our schemas organize information into categories and integrate new information. They develop on the basis of our experience and allow us to understand the world.
Our schemas are all different; some are culturally-based while others are based on personal experience. When we bring our schema into play and make use of it in a new way, we are learning and challenging misconceptions—through inquiry and through collaborative, experiential learning. Children need to experiment and prove things to themselves. When they have questions, our response should be “let’s find out!”
The IB Primary Years Program at Wade King Elementary gives children a wide range of schema building experiences from which to construct meaning and expand their understanding of the world around them. The provocation question that launches new units of inquiry is key to challenging students’ preconceptions and misconceptions and growing their schema. When students are asked to reflect at the end of a unit of inquiry, this provides the opportunity to see how their thinking has changed and their schemas have expanded.
Constructivism (philosophy of education)
Constructivism, as perspective in education, is based on experiential learning through real life experience to construct and conditionalize knowledge. It is problem-based, adaptive learning that challenges faulty schema, integrates new knowledge with existing knowledge, and allows for creation of original work or innovative procedures. The types of learners are self-directed, creative, innovative, drawing upon visual/spatial, musical/rhythmic, bodily kinesthetic, verbal/linguistic, logical/mathematical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic intelligences. The purpose in education is to become creative and innovative through analysis, conceptualizations, and synthesis of prior experience to create new knowledge. The educator’s role is to mentor the learner during heuristic problem solving of ill-defined problems by enabling quested learning. The learning goal is the highest order of learning: heuristic problem solving, metacognitive knowledge, creativity, and originality that may modify existing knowledge and allow for creation of new knowledge. Exemplars of constructivist perspective may be found in the works of John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and David Kolb.
Constructivism influences Instructional theory by encouraging discovery learning, hands-on learning, experiential learning, collaborative learning, project-based learning, and task-based learning. Constructivist epistemology, as a branch of the philosophy of science, offers an explanation of how human beings construct knowledge from information generated by previous experiences (heuristic knowledge). It has roots in cognitive psychology and biology and is an approach to education that lays emphasis on the ways knowledge is created while exploring the world.
In psychology and cognitive science, a schema (plural schemata or schemas) describes an organized pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them. It can also be described as a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspect of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving new information. Schemata influence attention and the absorption of new knowledge: people are more likely to notice things that fit into their schema, while re-interpreting contradictions to the schema as exceptions or distorting them to fit. Schemata have a tendency to remain unchanged, even in the face of contradictory information. Schemata can help in understanding the world and the rapidly changing environment. People can organize new perceptions into schemata quickly as most situations do not require complex thought when using schema, since automatic thought is all that is required.
People use schemata to organize current knowledge and provide a framework for future understanding. Examples of schemata include academic rubrics, social schemas, stereotypes, social roles, scripts, worldviews, and archetypes. In Piaget's theory of development, children adopt a series of schemata to understand the world.