Notes on Social Constructivism by Dr Dimitrios Tsiakiris Consultant in General Adult & Perinatal Psychiatry Clinical Lead for Research & Innovation LIVEWELL SOUTHWEST
I am not a specialist in this area. I just came across these concepts while preparing my dissertation and I was fascinated. They came as a confirmation to thoughts that I had for quite some time on how people learn and contsruct social reality. It seems that this concept is very relevant with the concept of co-production.
The theory of Social Constructivism calls attention to the significance of culture and the value of the social context for cognitive development. When individuals are focused on shared practices, they are actively constructing the cognitive tools needed for growth as human beings. Learning becomes primarily a process of enculturation into a community of practices, as social influences and the interactions with others generate the ability to advance and cultivate a shared meaning, thus transferring this meaning to each individual member of the group.
Social constructivism is the view that learning occurs through social interaction and the help of others, often in a group. Social constructivism posits that the understanding an individual develops is shaped through social interaction. The theory of social constructivism was developed by Soviet psychologist Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934). At the foundation of this theory is the belief that knowledge is not a copy of an objective reality but is rather the result the mind selecting and making sense of and recreating experiences. This means that knowledge is the result of interactions between both subjective and environmental factors. Lev Vygotsky, who challenged the views of Jean Piaget that mainly focused on cognitive development as an individual process, rather than a collaborative effort. Although Vygotsky’s ideas acknowledged individual psychology in cognitive development, he shifted the focus to external forces that were entwined with the internal world in which Piaget centred his theories. These influences, outside of the self, have a crucial function, serving to shape how humans view the world, through the language they come in contact with and the personal reflection that is derived from that input.
In this view, the processing of new knowledge involves three steps:
Construction - building an understanding of a new concept by drawing on many separate pieces of knowledge Storage - the mental process of putting new information into memory Retrieval - finding and using information already stored in memory
Retrieval sounds simple but is a step where errors can occur. Specifically, a learner may make a reconstruction error. Reconstruction errors occur when there is a gap in one’s understanding. The tendency is to fill the gap with thoughts that are logical but may be incorrect. A learner makes a reconstruction error when retrieving information from long-term memory to construct a logical but incorrect idea.
Social constructivism is based on several assumptions or guiding principles:
Knowledge is constructed through human activity. Reality is created jointly by members of a society. Learning is an active and social process. Individuals create meaning through interactions with others and environments. Meaningful learning occurs when individuals engage in social activities.
When implemented well, a social constructivist approach to teaching and learning can bring about several benefits:
Learners are pushed to clarify and organize their ideas when they explain them to others. Learners gain exposure to different views when interacting with other learners. Through interactions with others, learners can identify errors and inconsistencies in their thinking. Learners are encouraged to ask questions, develop hypotheses, and draw inferences from information and experiences. Learners collaboratively reach conclusions or solutions through distributed cognition. Learners can develop deeper understanding. Learners can reach higher levels of creativity. Learners gain skills needed for independent problem solving in the future. Learners can improve their metacognitive skills.
Please see below some links – some of them contain short and explanatory videos that might help
https://study.com/learn/lesson/social-constructivism-theory-examples.html#:~:text=Social%20Constructivism%20Examples-,What%20Is%20the%20Theory%20of%20Social%20Constructivism%3F,is%20shaped%20through%20social%20interaction (nice video and good article)
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/B008043076701086X (chapter from the International Encyclopaedia of the Social & Behavioural Sciences, D. Detel, 2001)
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/computer-science/social-constructivism (links to several scientific articles from Science Direct and other Journals)
https://www.simplypsychology.org/social-constructionism.html (psychological views on constructivism)
https://www.eajournals.org/wp-content/uploads/Social-Constructivism.pdf (constructivism in educational processes)