Assessing Science Understanding: A Human Constructivist View (Educational Psychology) (2004)

Educational psychology
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Researchers in education and educational psychology; teachers of science at all levels of education. Each chapter has references, advanced organizers, and appropriate figures and adequately discusses the cognitive model used with the assessment device and the logic of its use. This high-quality contribution would be a good addition for libraries of schools offering undergraduate and graduate teacher education degrees, and would be particularly useful for science education programs.

The companion volume, Teaching Science for Understanding by the same editors, should also be considered. The success of this project will depend on the extent to which the intended audience is willing to dig into the references, reflect on the lessons within the book, and also reflect on teaching practice as they experiment with ways to improve it.

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Institutional Subscription. Free Shipping Free global shipping No minimum order. Trowbridge and J. Wandersee , Observation Rubrics in Science Assessment. Everyone is expected to contribute by using these skills. Another crucial assumption regarding the nature of the learner concerns the level and source of motivation for learning.

These feelings of competence and belief in their potential to solve new problems, are derived from first-hand experience of mastery of problems in the past and are much more powerful than any external acknowledgment and motivation Prawat and Floden, By experiencing the successful completion of challenging tasks, learners gain confidence and motivation to embark on more complex challenges. According to the social constructivism approach, instructors have to adapt to the role of facilitators and not teachers Bauersfeld, Whereas a teacher gives a didactic lecture that covers the subject matter, a facilitator helps the learner to get to his or her own understanding of the content.

In the former scenario the learner plays a passive role and in the latter scenario the learner plays an active role in the learning process. This dramatic change of role implies that a facilitator needs to display a totally different set of skills than a teacher Brownstein A teacher tells, a facilitator asks; a teacher lectures from the front, a facilitator supports from the back; a teacher gives answers according to a set curriculum, a facilitator provides guidelines and creates the environment for the learner to arrive at his or her own conclusions; a teacher mostly gives a monologue, a facilitator is in continuous dialogue with the learners Rhodes and Bellamy, The learning environment should also be designed to support and challenge the learner's thinking Di Vesta, While it is advocated to give the learner ownership of the problem and solution process, it is not the case that any activity or any solution is adequate.

The critical goal is to support the learner in becoming an effective thinker. This can be achieved by assuming multiple roles, such as consultant and coach. Social constructivism, strongly influenced by Vygotsky's work, suggests that knowledge is first constructed in a social context and is then taken up by individuals Bruning et al. Scholars view learning as active, where learners should learn to discover principles, concepts and facts for themselves.

They support guesswork and intuitive thinking in learners Brown et al. For the social constructivist, the real is not there to be found: it does not pre- exist, but we invent it in a social context. Kukla argues that we construct the real through our actions. People together, as members of a group, invent the properties of the world.

Other constructivist scholars agree with this and hold that we make meanings through acting with each other and the environment. Knowledge is thus a product of humans and is a product of our social nature, and of our culture. Ernest ; Prawat and Floden McMahon agrees that learning is a social process. He further states that learning is neither a private thing, nor a passive shaping by outside forces. Instead, meaning occurs through social actions. Vygotsky also highlighted the convergence of the social and active roles in learning. He said that the greatest moment in our mind's development occurs when speech and action converge.

Before, these were seen as independent lines of development. A further characteristic of the role of the facilitator in the social constructivist viewpoint, is that the instructor and the learners are equally involved in learning from each other as well Holt and Willard-Holt Learners compare their version of the truth with that of the instructor and fellow learners to get to a new, socially tested version of truth Kukla The task or problem is thus the interface between the instructor and the learner McMahon This creates a dynamic interaction between task, instructor and learner.

This entails that learners and instructors should develop an awareness of each other's viewpoints and then look to their own beliefs, standards and values, thus being both subjective and objective at the same time Savery Some studies argue for the importance of mentoring in the process of learning Archee and Duin ; Brown et al. The social constructivist model thus emphasizes the importance of the relationship between the student and the instructor in the learning process.

Some learning approaches that could harbour this interactive learning include reciprocal teaching, peer collaboration, cognitive apprenticeship , problem-based instruction, web quests, anchored instruction and other approaches that involve learning with others. Learners with different skills and backgrounds should collaborate in tasks and discussions to arrive at a shared understanding of the truth in a specific field Duffy and Jonassen Most social constructivism models, such as that proposed by Duffy and Jonassen , also stress the need for collaboration among learners, in direct contradiction to traditional competitive approaches.

One Vygotskian notion that has significant implications for peer collaboration, is that of the zone of proximal development. Defined as the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem-solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem-solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers, it differs from the fixed biological nature of Piaget's stages of development. Through a process of 'scaffolding' a learner can be extended beyond the limitations of physical maturation to the extent that the development process lags behind the learning process Vygotsky If students have to present and train new contents with their classmates, a non-linear process of collective knowledge-construction will be set up.

The social constructivist paradigm views the context in which the learning occurs as central to the learning itself McMahon Underlying the notion of the learner as an active processor is "the assumption that there is no one set of generalised learning laws with each law applying to all domains" Di Vesta Decontextualised knowledge does not give us the skills to apply our understandings to authentic tasks because, as Duffy and Jonassen indicated, we are not working with the concept in the complex environment and experiencing the complex interrelationships in that environment that determine how and when the concept is used.

One social constructivist notion is that of authentic or situated learning , where the student takes part in activities directly relevant to the application of learning and that take place within a culture similar to the applied setting Brown et al. Cognitive apprenticeship has been proposed as an effective constructivist model of learning that attempts to "enculturate students into authentic practices through activity and social interaction in a way similar to that evident, and evidently successful, in craft apprenticeship" Ackerman Holt and Willard-Holt emphasize the concept of dynamic assessment, which is a way of assessing the true potential of learners that differs significantly from conventional tests.

Learning Theories. Their Influence on Teaching Methods

Here the essentially interactive nature of learning is extended to the process of assessment. Rather than viewing assessment as a process carried out by one person, such as an instructor, it is seen as a two-way process involving interaction between both instructor and learner. The role of the assessor becomes one of entering into dialogue with the persons being assessed to find out their current level of performance on any task and sharing with them possible ways in which that performance might be improved on a subsequent occasion.

Thus, assessment and learning are seen as inextricably linked and not separate processes Holt and Willard-Holt According to this viewpoint instructors should see assessment as a continuous and interactive process that measures the achievement of the learner, the quality of the learning experience and courseware. The feedback created by the assessment process serves as a direct foundation for further development. Knowledge should not be divided into different subjects or compartments, but should be discovered as an integrated whole McMahon ; Di Vesta This also again underlines the importance of the context in which learning is presented Brown et al.

The world, in which the learner needs to operate, does not approach one in the form of different subjects, but as a complex myriad of facts, problems, dimensions, and perceptions Ackerman Learners should constantly be challenged with tasks that refer to skills and knowledge just beyond their current level of mastery. This captures their motivation and builds on previous successes to enhance learner confidence Brownstein Vygotsky further claimed that instruction is good only when it proceeds ahead of development. Then it awakens and rouses to life an entire set of functions in the stage of maturing, which lie in the zone of proximal development.

It is in this way that instruction plays an extremely important role in development. To fully engage and challenge the learner, the task and learning environment should reflect the complexity of the environment that the learner should be able to function in at the end of learning. Learners must not only have ownership of the learning or problem-solving process, but of the problem itself Derry Where the sequencing of subject matter is concerned, it is the constructivist viewpoint that the foundations of any subject may be taught to anybody at any stage in some form Duffy and Jonassen This means that instructors should first introduce the basic ideas that give life and form to any topic or subject area, and then revisit and build upon these repeatedly.

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This notion has been extensively used in curricula. It is also important for instructors to realize that although a curriculum may be set down for them, it inevitably becomes shaped by them into something personal that reflects their own belief systems, their thoughts and feelings about both the content of their instruction and their learners Rhodes and Bellamy Thus, the learning experience becomes a shared enterprise.

The emotions and life contexts of those involved in the learning process must therefore be considered as an integral part of learning. The goal of the learner is central in considering what is learned Brown et al. It is important to achieve the right balance between the degree of structure and flexibility that is built into the learning process.

Savery contends that the more structured the learning environment, the harder it is for the learners to construct meaning based on their conceptual understandings. A facilitator should structure the learning experience just enough to make sure that the students get clear guidance and parameters within which to achieve the learning objectives, yet the learning experience should be open and free enough to allow for the learners to discover, enjoy, interact and arrive at their own, socially verified version of truth.

Constructivist ideas have been used to inform adult education. Where pedagogy applies to the education of children, adult educators often speak instead of andragogy or heutagogy. Methods must take account of differences in learning, due to the fact that adults have many more experiences schema psychology and previously existing neurological structures. Approaches based on constructivism stress the importance of mechanisms for mutual planning, diagnosis of learner needs and interests, cooperative learning climate, sequential activities for achieving the objectives, formulation of learning objectives based on the diagnosed needs and interests.

Personal relevance of the content, involvement of the learner in the process, and deeper understanding of underlying concepts are some of the intersections between emphases in constructivism and adult learning principles. Various approaches in instructional strategies derive from constructivist theory.

Goal 1: preserving children’s love of learning

The effects of practice on cognitive test performance of neurologically normal individuals assessed at brief test—retest intervals. The role of peers and group learning. Then it awakens and rouses to life an entire set of functions in the stage of maturing, which lie in the zone of proximal development. Wilson Ed. Analogical reasoning: A new look at an old problem. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 64 , 91— The European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 2 2 ,

They usually suggest that learning is accomplished best using a hands-on approach. Learners learn by experimentation, and not by being told what will happen, and are left to make their own inferences , discoveries and conclusions. For example, they describe a project called GenScope, an inquiry-based science software application. Students using the GenScope software showed significant gains over the control groups, with the largest gains shown in students from basic courses.

Hmelo-Silver et al. This study also found that inquiry-based teaching methods greatly reduced the achievement gap for African-American students. Guthrie et al. The constructivist approach, called CORI Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction , resulted in better student reading comprehension, cognitive strategies, and motivation. Jong Suk Kim found that using constructivist teaching methods for 6th graders resulted in better student achievement than traditional teaching methods. This study also found that students preferred constructivist methods over traditional ones.

However, Kim did not find any difference in student self-concept or learning strategies between those taught by constructivist or traditional methods. In their initial test of student performance immediately following the lessons, they found no significant difference between traditional and constructivist methods. However, in the follow-up assessment 15 days later, students who learned through constructivist methods showed better retention of knowledge than those who learned through traditional methods.

Several cognitive psychologists and educators have questioned the central claims of constructivism. It is argued that constructivist theories are misleading or contradict known findings. In the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development it is maintained that learning at any age depends upon the processing and representational resources available at this particular age. That is, it is maintained that if the requirements of the concept to be understood exceeds the available processing efficiency and working memory resources then the concept is by definition not learnable.

This attitude toward learning impedes the learning from understanding essential theoretical concepts or, in other words, reasoning. If this condition is not met, construction goes astray.

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Several educators have also questioned the effectiveness of this approach toward instructional design, especially as it applies to the development of instruction for novices [ 20 ] Mayer, ; Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark, While some constructivists argue that "learning by doing" enhances learning, critics of this instructional strategy argue that little empirical evidence exists to support this statement given novice learners Mayer, ; Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark, [ 20 ].

Sweller and his colleagues argue that novices do not possess the underlying mental models, or "schemas" necessary for "learning by doing" e. Sweller, Indeed, Mayer reviewed the literature and found that fifty years of empirical data do not support using the constructivist teaching technique of pure discovery; in those situations requiring discovery, he argues for the use of guided discovery instead. Mayer argues that not all teaching techniques based on constructivism are efficient or effective for all learners, suggesting many educators misapply constructivism to use teaching techniques that require learners to be behaviorally active.

He describes this inappropriate use of constructivism as the "constructivist teaching fallacy". Instead Mayer proposes learners should be "cognitively active" during learning and that instructors use "guided practice. In contrast, Kirschner et al. Slezak states that constructivism "is an example of fashionable but thoroughly problematic doctrines that can have little benefit for practical pedagogy or teacher education. Kirschner et al. While there are critics of the Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark [ 20 ] article, Sweller and his associates have written in their articles about:.

Clark, Nguyen, and Sweller describe this as a very effective, empirically validated method of teaching learners procedural skill acquisition. Evidence for learning by studying worked-examples, is known as the worked-example effect and has been found to be useful in many domains [e. The reasoning for this grouping is because each learning theory promotes the same constructivist teaching technique—"learning by doing.

Major theories and models of learning

Mayer states that it promotes behavioral activity too early in the learning process, when learners should be cognitively active Mayer, In addition, Sweller and his associates describe a continuum of guidance, starting with worked examples to slowly fade guidance. This continuum of faded guidance has been tested empirically to produce a series of learning effects: the worked-example effect Sweller and Cooper, , [ 31 ] the guidance fading effect Renkl, Atkinson, Maier, and Staley, , [ 32 ] and the expertise-reversal effect Kalyuga, Ayres, Chandler, and Sweller, Mayer [ 30 ] argues against discovery-based teaching techniques and provides an extensive review to support this argument.

Goal 3: Support the development of essential skills

Mayer's arguments are against pure discovery, and are not specifically aimed at constructivism: "Nothing in this article should be construed as arguing against the view of learning as knowledge construction or against using hands-on inquiry or group discussion that promotes the process of knowledge construction in learners. The main conclusion I draw from the three research literatures I have reviewed is that it would be a mistake to interpret the current constructivist view of learning as a rationale for reviving pure discovery as a method of instruction.

Mayer's concern is how one applies discovery-based teaching techniques.

Piaget's Theory of Cognitive Development

He provides empirical research as evidence that discovery-based teaching techniques are inadequate. Yet a dispassionate review of the relevant research literature shows that discovery-based practice is not as effective as guided discovery. He proposes that the instructional design recommendations of constructivism are too often aimed at discovery-based practice Mayer, Sweller found evidence that practice by novices during early schema acquisition, distracts these learners with unnecessary search-based activity, when the learner's attention should be focused on understanding acquiring schemas.

The study by Kirschner et al. See the preceding two sections of this article. This would agree with Mayer's viewpoint that even though constructivism as a theory and teaching techniques incorporating guidance are likely valid applications of this theory, nevertheless a tradition of misunderstanding has led to some question "pure discovery" techniques. The argument between the use or working memory and long term memory is also important to focus on in this reference, as it argues one of the main beliefs of constructivism itself that one derives new ideas from past knowledge.

This contrasts the belief that one can build upon ideas that are recently attained, yet also rejects the idea that one can't combine the two. The math wars controversy in the United States is an example of the type of heated debate that sometimes follows the implementation of constructivist-inspired curricula in schools.

In the s, mathematics textbooks based on new standards largely informed by constructivism were developed and promoted with government support. Although constructivist theory does not require eliminating instruction entirely, some textbooks seemed to recommend this extreme.

Some parents and mathematicians protested the design of textbooks that omitted or de-emphasized instruction of standard mathematical methods. Supporters responded that the methods were to be eventually discovered under direction by the teacher, but since this was missing or unclear, many insisted the textbooks were designed to deliberately eliminate instruction of standard methods. In one commonly adopted text, the standard formula for the area of a circle is to be derived in the classroom, but not actually printed in the student textbook as is explained by the developers of CMP : "The student role of formulating, representing, clarifying, communicating, and reflecting on ideas leads to an increase in learning.

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If the format of the texts included many worked examples, the student role would then become merely reproducing these examples with small modifications. Similarly, this approach has been applied to reading with whole language and inquiry-based science that emphasizes the importance of devising rather than just performing hands-on experiments as early as the elementary grades traditionally done by research scientists , rather than studying facts.

In other areas of curriculum such as social studies and writing are relying more on "higher order thinking skills" rather than memorization of dates, grammar or spelling rules or reciting correct answers. Advocates of this approach counter that the constructivism does not require going to extremes, that in fact teachable moments should regularly infuse the experience with the more traditional teaching.

The primary differentiation from the traditional approach being that the engagement of the students in their learning makes them more receptive to learning things at an appropriate time, rather than on a preset schedule. During the s, several theorists began to study the cognitive load of novices those with little or no prior knowledge of the subject matter during problem solving.

Based on the results of their research, these authors do not support the idea of allowing novices to interact with ill-structured learning environments. Ill-structured learning environments rely on the learner to discover problem solutions Jonassen, Jonassen also suggested that novices be taught with "well-structured" learning environments. Jonassen also proposed well-designed, well-structured learning environments provide scaffolding for problem-solving. Finally both Sweller and Jonassen support problem-solving scenarios for more advanced learners Jonassen, ; luga, Ayres, Chandler, and Sweller, Sweller and his associates even suggest well-structured learning environments, like those provided by worked examples, are not effective for those with more experience—this was later described as the " expertise reversal effect " Kalyuga et al.

1st Edition

Imprint: Academic Press. Published Date: 7th December Page Count: View all volumes in this series: Educational Psychology. Select country/region. Assessing Science Understanding: A Human Constructivist View (Educational have given teachers a mandate for improving science education in America. Series: Educational Psychology; Paperback: pages; Publisher: Academic Press; 1 edition (December 21, ); Language: English; ISBN .

Cognitive load theorists suggest worked examples initially, with a gradual introduction of problem solving scenarios; this is described as the "guidance fading effect" Renkl, Atkinson, Maier, and Staley, ; Sweller, Finally Mayer states: "Thus, the contribution of psychology is to help move educational reform efforts from the fuzzy and unproductive world of educational ideology—which sometimes hides under the banner of various versions of constructivism—to the sharp and productive world of theory-based research on how people learn. Many people confuse Constructivist learning theory with social constructivism.

Constructivist learning theory is associated with high order learning of mature learners, androgogy or heutagogy , not early learning as discussed by the Cognitivist, Piaget [ 39 ] or Vygotsky, [ 40 ] whose research focused on children and sequential learning. Social constructivism is not congruent with the Constructivist learning theory. Dewey, Montessori, and Kolb represent the Constructivist learning theory where experiential learning occurs through real life experience to construct and conditionalize knowledge, and a mentor guides the mature learner.

Piaget, Bruner, and Vygotsky are Cognitivist who work with young children and base their learning theories upon sequential development of mental processes scaffolded by an instructor. There are two major strands of the constructivist perspective. These two strands, cognitive constructivism and social constructivism, are different in emphasis, but they also share many common perspectives about teaching and learning.

Before looking at the differences between cognitive and social constructivists, it might be worthwhile to look at what they have in common. Jonassen's description of the general characteristics of constructivist learning environments is a succinct summary of the constructivist perspective. Jonassen proposed that there are eight characteristics that differentiate constructivist learning environments:.

Jonassen's eight characteristics would be supported by both social and cognitive constructivists. There is, however, a difference in the emphasis these two strands on constructivism place on each of those characteristics. In recent decades, theorists have extended the traditional focus on individual learning to address collaborative and social dimensions of learning. It is possible to see social constructivism as a bringing together of aspects of the work of Piaget with that of Bruner and Vygotsky Wood The term Communal constructivism was developed by Leask and Younie through their research on the European School Net project which demonstrated the value of peer to peer learning i.

Bryn Holmes in applied this to student learning as described in an early paper, "in this model , students will not simply pass through a course like water through a sieve but instead leave their own imprint in the learning process. To take this one step further it is important to define exactly what cognitive complexity is. In this case cognitive complexity is the degree of ability to distinguish between personalities, no matter how obvious the personality difference may be or how minute the personality difference may be. Researchers believe that those with more sets of constructs have an advantage of social perception skills compared to those who have only a small amount of constructs to interpret people with Griffin If we use this as our base then those who only view the world made up of one type of person can be coined as lackluster.

Those who view more than one type of person in the world are a notch above the rest, elevated human beings able to distinguish the different characteristics amongst those they interact with. If one is able to carry through with their person-centered message then they are able to manipulate their original message in mind and adjust it to whatever level the person they are talking to will best understand it. Constructionism has influenced the course of programming and computer science.

Some famous programming languages have been created, wholly or in part, for educational use, to support the constructionist theory of Seymour Papert. These languages have been dynamically typed , and reflective. Logo is the best known of them. Here, he was the developer of an original and highly influential theory on learning called constructionism, built upon the work of Jean Piaget in constructionist learning theories. Papert worked with Jean Piaget at the University of Geneva from to and is widely considered the most brilliant and successful of Piaget's proteges; Piaget once said that "no one understands my ideas as well as Papert.

Constructionism is not congruent with Constructivism. Problem-based learning follows a constructivist perspective in learning since the role of the instructor is to guide and challenge the learning process. Students learn about a subject through the experience of problem solving.

Journal of Educational Psychology. Jump to: navigation , search. Main article: Constructivist epistemology. Main article: Learning by teaching. Main article: Constructivist teaching methods. Main article: Math Wars. Main article: Problem-based learning. Constructivism in education.

Oxford, England: Pergamon Press. Constructing a history of American curriculum inHandbook of research on curriculum.