Reflection 4: On Cognitive Constructivism

And so… I have jumped head on into cognitive constructivism. I find it challenging to initially understand the concepts. At first, after reading on the research journals and article, I got myself even more confused as there seem to be a mixed up use of the term constructivism. I eventually understand that constructivism isn’t a unitary theory, it is in fact made up of many theories.

The idea of constructivism itself isn’t new to humanity. Socrates opened up the floor to his students to ask questions. Inquiry is the basis of constructivism – John Dewey spent his lifetime on elaborating constructivist ideals as early as late 19th century. It was Jean Piaget who brought clarity to the initial ideas of constructivism when he developed the Cognitive Development Theory. Cognitive development theory is the one widely known as the cognitive constructivism.

Cognitive constructivism is a critical turning point in the evolution of constructivism which grew into a spectrum of learning theories. It grew in prominence amidst traditional, behaviourist settings. The challenge in pinning down cognitive development theory in a wholesome form is particularly due to the fact that Piaget spend over 40 years working on the theory, and thus had numerous papers written. Also, the fact that his original work was written in French which made translation and interpretation into English a tricky one thus giving giving rise to multiple terms which essentially mean the same thing..

Constructivism expanded from cognitive constructivism to radial constructivism (von Glaserfeld) to social constructivism (Vygotsky) to a myriad of other recent learning theories and models. Despite my earlier regret of choosing this topic, I am now very pleased that I have a good understanding of the main principles of the theory which are echoed in the subsequent modern day learning theories and models. For someone who is brought up and educated in mainly behaviourist approach, I find cognitive constructivism both liberating and refreshing.

Constructivism should be emphasised in the development of pedagogy and curriculum for K-12 education scene in Malaysia. It must be emphasised in professional courses and degrees to enable greater openness to ideas and innovative mindsets. While Piaget assigned certain ages to the four developmental stages, my view on this is that the four stages are repeated when we learn new things throughout our lives. For instance, sensori-motor skills development are applicable throughout our lives. My personal experience of getting into the Mozilla Hub during the course is one such instance – how we move forward or backward, looking up or down is controlled by the keys on the keypads which is determined by the dexterity of our hands/fingers. It explains that anyone including those from the Baby Boomers generation who is trying to get into gaming will first need to develop “gamer’s” sensori-motor skills.

I will be posting a short video on the application of the principles of cognitive constructivism. However, as a prelude I append below the chart explaining Piaget’s theory. This will be helpful as you watch the video.

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