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A further constructivist theory is ‘social constructivism’. However this differs noticeably from Piaget’s method through the role of the social structure in learning, its principal proponent Vygotsky, saw the role of the adult as being instrumental to the learning and experiences of the pupil. In essence this is due to the difference between what the child can achieve them, and the achievements they make with help of an adult. The gap between the two was conceptualised by Vygotsky as the Zone of Proximal development (ZPD). By structuring the experience of the child through the use of ‘scaffolding’, therefore ensuring that learning is taking place, Vygotsky suggested that the ZPD was bridged. As such the learning is social and involves interaction. However it is not always essential for an adult to be present for the ZPD to be bridged; a more experienced peer could perform the same task (i.e. mixed ability talk partners). This learning also remains social, involving the negotiation of the social tools of interaction, chiefly language and other social conventions. This approach is one which primary schools and teachers are familiar with and a part of day to day teaching and learning. It begins by breaking down each taught concept into its component parts. Pollard (1997) remarks that “the process is cyclical, with the teacher reviewing the child’s progress at each stage.” This process requires a high level of both subject knowledge by the teacher and an understanding of the children in their care. Fitting well with the view of learning as enculturation, the method addresses the personal, social and cultural aspects of learning identified above, and demonstrates learning as a relational activity. It also fits well with the social setting of the primary school as being the principal agent in the process of learning. From my experience to date I would query how ably it is possible for a teacher to dedicate enough time and attention to each child in a possible class of thirty-five, and whether it is feasible to tailor teaching to always work optimally within each child’s ZPD across all subjects. However, I have also experienced differentiation of lesson aims towards this, and maybe the recent emphasis on individual assessment and learning (i.e. Assessing Pupil Progress) will assist more efficient learning in this way.


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