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Life is characterized by unpredictable situations and limitless possibilities both vast and widespread, so ultimately students should be able to apply what they learn in school to any circumstances, whether it be life in general or specifically, their workplace. Traditionally the transmissive approach to teaching and learning involving the transfer of information from teacher to student and commonly referred to as the 'empty vessel' approach, has been the dominant approach to student learning (Dawson, 1998). In recent years science educators have employed a model termed to help understand and facilitate student learning. Indeed this model of teaching is helpful but by no means is it ideal. In order to make an informed judgement concerning the what method of teaching to adopt in the future one must first understand the notion of , the role of the teacher in a contructivist classroom and misconceptions about this learning approach.
What is Constructivisim?
Fraser and Walberg (1995) state that considers knowledge of the world outside as human construction, although a reality outside the individual is not denied it is claimed that all we know about reality is our own tentative construction. Trowbridge (1996) relates this general view of to teaching by adding that is a model of teaching in which students construct knowledge by interpreting new experiences in the context of prior knowledge, experiences, episodes and images. Thus, as suggested by Kelly (1995),a constructivist approach to learning does not view learning as the transfer of knowledge to the learner, but rather an active construction of knowledge by the learner. For these reasons it can be concluded that encompasses 'the learner' who constructs his or her knowledge on the basis of knowledge already held.
Predominantly it is the Ausubelian theory, suggested by David Ausbel, that provides the theoretical basis for (Throwbridge,1996). In essence the Ausubelian theory encompasses that a students prior knowledge is an important factor in determining active learning in a given situation (Throwbridge,1996).

Poole (1995) mentions that many forms of constructivism have been suggested and adopted by both educators and philosophers, however radical constructivism (Glaserfield, 1993) and social constructivism (Solomon, 1987) seem to be the two dominant forms of constructivism in concern to teaching. Radical constructivism unlike the transmissive approach to teaching described by Dawson (1998), is not simply the transfer of knowledge through passive means of the senses and communication i.e. "talk and chalk", it is characterised by the active construction or building by the individual. Knowledge itself, does not exist as a independent entity from a individual and it is the social interactions between learners that strongly influences the construction of knowledge by an individual (Glasersfeld, 1995). Perhaps most predominantly, radical constructivism views the role of cognition as to make sense or meaning of their world rather then purely relying on discovery.

On the other hand Gergen (1995), Staver(1998) and particularly Vygotsky (1978) discuss social constructivism. As opposed to radical constructivism, social constructivism is primarily concerned with the use of language as a medium in the building of meaning. Social constructivists view social interchange as the primary means by which knowledge is constructed. They also see social interdependence as the mechanism humans utilise to obtain meaning, and that these meanings are dependent upon the context of the social interdependence.

Philips (1995) argues that any defensible epistemology, such as constructivism, must acknowledge that nature exerts considerable constraint over our knowledge-constructing activities, thus allowing us to both detect and reject our own personal misconceptions concerning it. This point of view, as demonstrated by Philips (1995), allows the operation of our knowledge constructing communities, and in turn grants the inclusion and the empowerment of long-silenced voices. Also a social constituent to the construction of knowledge, the process of constructing meaning, is always embedded in a particular social setting of which the individual is a part (Poole,1995).

Chin-chung Tsai (1998) in his article, Science Learning and Constructivism, highlights the fact that there is no clear distinction between our observations and involved theory and for this reason our theory usually precedes what we perceive. Does this indeed suggest that self directed learning is beneficial to students or that the influence of students' current conceptions on their observations of experiments, demonstrations and the comprehension involved in the analysis of both science texts and lesson material, in turn may confuse and mislead students in relation to both new and prior knowledge?

Classroom Implications

If a teacher asks a question and a student attempts to understand it, the understanding they develop is from their perspective and on the basis of the conceptions they hold. Thus if these conceptions are different to that of the teachers, which is commonly the case, the students make sense and answer the question in a different way to the teacher. As a consequence of this process the answer given is interpreted by the teacher from their own point of view. Hence an endless circle of misunderstanding between teachers and students occurs in such communication situations. i.e. neither the teacher or student can be sure if they understand each other.

As demonstrated previously, what a teacher suggests is a wrong answer in many incidents can actually be the students construction on the basis of their own conceptions. Therefore, as constructivism suggests, teachers must be aware that students tend to argue from a vantage point that is different from the teachers (Fraser and Walberg, 1995).

A constructivist teacher believes that students themselves must be active participants in assembling knowledge into a structured form and not receiving it ready made (Dawson, 1998). Ideally students are both encouraged and required to generate new ideas, identify what is to be explained and suggest hypotheses and tests to achieve this, to criticise results and search for alternatives.

Disputable Nature of Constructivism Approaches

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Keywords: constructivism art, constructivism international relations, constructivism learning theory, constructivism meaning, constructivism philosophy, constructivism definition, constructivism philosophy of education, constructivismo

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