Social Constructivism


Constructivism is a combination of different theories revolving around a common area but reflecting diverse issues. The combined form is viewed as the reference to major subjects with different perspectives. Theorists consider this as the accumulation of cognitive and behavioral ideas conjoined together in the attempt of enhancing the meaning of various matters that are related in one way or another. The constructivist approach considers learning as the continuous process of developing meaning from different issues and understanding every aspect involved. It is viewed as the way people make sense out of every experience they ever had in their lives and from other individuals as well through observation and an overall connection of the issues involved. Constructivism widely contributes to children’s understanding as they grow up while learning and gives them the insight of how that knowledge can increase to an advanced way of thinking concerning different issues and aspects. They further explain that constructivism enables students to make sense in whatever fields they are learning while at the same time it provides the insight of how materials and different subjects can be well taught to the students.

Having the constructivist theory in mind in the educational perspective, teachers should have the freedom of considering what their respective students already know and are capable of, and further, allow them to exercise their knowledge by putting it into practice upon various issues they face. Constructivism exists in different perspectives, two of which are majorly known and practiced. The latter includes the cognitive and the social constructivist perspective. In the modern theory, social constructivism has become amongst the major elements in learning, especially in language. The current paper is an explanatory essay aimed at focusing on all the aspects of social constructivism and its application in education.


Definition and description of social constructivism

Orjinta defines social constructivism as the theory of knowledge mainly existing in communication and sociology aimed at analyzing the understanding of different aspects of the world and the knowledge involved there in. He considers the different aspect of knowledge brought together by divergent views and focus on various individuals into a single form. According to Terhart, the theory is based upon two major elements that are important in the overall explanation of the method; the ability to believe that language is the primary system upon which people can develop reality and the presumption that individuals categorize what they experience in their day-to-day activities in the world, through the establishment of a model concerning the social world and the ways in which the world operates.

According to the research, cognitive development appears on the social level in the first stages and advances within the individuals later on. Therefore, learners do their best to relate to circumstances in an attempt of making sense of other people and developing knowledge on a social level. In a society, the culture and context involved in the understanding and internalization of every aspect that occurs with the people and the construction of the knowledge under this understanding are critically explained in the aspects of social constructivism. Orjinta points out that social constructivism majors in three assumptions, the ones that make it efficient and actual upon the understanding of aspects by different individuals in the society. The assumptions include the reality of situations, knowledge by the associated persons, and the process of learning of various aspects within the individuals.

Variations involved in social constructivism

Constructivism is based on a variety of different theories put together to form a collective ideological development of knowledge and understanding of the world by various individuals. It encompasses the plurality of distinct perspectives, and multiple aspects pointed at a specific aim. Among the different views of various theorists in the attempt to explain the different faces of constructivism, three variations are incorporated as the distinct forms of the constructivism theory which include radical or critical constructivism, the social constructivism, and the psychological form of constructivism. According to Orjinta, all the three variations are based on the assumption that meaning or knowledge of different aspects in the society is not only discovered but rather the same is developed by individuals’ minds based on various levels of understanding.

Terhart points that radical constructivism was formulated and introduced into learning by Ernest Von. He adds that the category of constructivism assumes that the reality in the external view is hardly known. The knowing aspect develops all the knowledge including the day-to-day observations and the observer. The radical constructivists suggest that it is almost impossible to categorize knowledge as a metaphysical reality or rather as an ontological. He adds that there is a possibility of an individual to know something without metaphysics, a fact that indicates the existence of knowing in the real aspect of experiences in the world rather than ontologically.

Applefield, Richard and Moallem provide a detailed description of the radical constructivism aspect by the use of the esoteric words from the classifications of different perspectives of constructivism by Moshman, such as endogenous, dialectical, and the exogenous aspects. According to him, the first one focuses on the development and construction of a person’s knowledge as a result of the existing knowledge and past experiences on different aspects. The second one emphasizes the relationship involving different types of associations and interactions between the environment and various individuals. The last one concentrates on the contribution of the environment and social aspects in constructing an individual’s knowledge.

Social constructivism involves types of knowledge and disciplines in a theory which have been developed and based on human construction. The perspective in which knowledge has occupied in these regions is under the determination of politics, norms, ideas, beliefs in religions, and the self-interest of the economy in society. The social constructivist approach focuses on the particular ways that the economic, political, and social factors which influence various forms that people establish and their understanding of different aspects concerning the world in which they live. Mvududu and Thiel-Burgess explain that the particular forms of understanding and knowledge are barely considered as the primary representations of the world but rather an internal world within the associated individuals.

The third variation in constructivism is the social psychological constructivism based on the developmental theory. The learning approach of the perspective explains that the individuals viewed as learners are objectively considered to develop meanings around certain phenomena. According to Mvududu and Thiel-Burgess, constructions of knowledge based on these aspects are idiosyncratic. Most of the latter are having their dependence in the particular part in which the learners developed the background knowledge and understanding of various aspects. In the process of formulating individual meaning may occur within individuals and social groups that are capable of providing the related members, the opportunity to provide and distribute the particular purposes around other persons in the associated society. Social constructivism and the corresponding variations affect various theoretical schools in the study of knowledge and understanding including both philosophical and psychological schools.

Theoretical alternatives presented by theorists to oppressive social norms

The environment, in which the learning process occurs is viewed by social constructivists as crucial and most important. To facilitate learning and deal with the oppressive social norms, theorists articulate various aspects that could be incorporated in learning to improve and promote better learning. The latter involve ideological and social constructivism where the priority of education is made the first due to its importance in expressing and incorporating social norms among individuals in the society. The ideas generated in here are aimed to advance the vision of the learners and the foundation of thinking and development of social meaning is enhanced in general.

In addition, theorists propose an alternative to the emergent approach, as they assert that changes and improvements of the existing social constructivism in a surrounding or environment of learning should be made to emerge as soon as there is a requirement of doing so. In the case of the oppressive norms among the learners, the values and proposals of the theorists stand as influencing since the scientists suggest that the meaning of different aspects of the world, the knowledge, and the understanding of how the world operates can be addressed in the classroom. The above is aimed at incorporating the individual learners and the overall aspects of the whole class in general. In the attempt of resisting the oppressiveness in the social norms, learning is supposed to be made efficient in the society as children are expected to develop their way of thinking and doing things as a result of interacting with the adults within the same community.

Theoretical alternatives of social constructivism

There are different strategies and options by various theorists, as an alternate of the social constructivism, in the attempt of covering the social constructivism potential disadvantages and limitations. The latter includes the learning theory based on the brain, whereby the method builds on the composition and the function of the brain upon various aspects as desired by the learner. Learning will always occur for as long as the minds remain functioning sound and are not prohibited from operating under the normal circumstances.

Another theoretical aspect is under the theory of motivation that was suggested by William Glasser. It involves the fact that describes the inexistence of behavior arising from the effect of the outside stimulus but rather influenced by the desire of an individual at any time. He adds that Glasser makes an attempt of responding to the worries that students are less motivated in the recent years than they were a long time ago. Furthermore, he explains that all the existing creatures, including human beings, regulate their behavior to acquire what they need. Orjinta suggests another theory as an alternative of social constructivism which is the social learning theory. The method takes place when a person’s way of thinking and acting changes right after they view different behavioral models.

The limitations of social constructivism

Different theorists and analysts present various criticisms upon the social constructivism theory since they consider it as only a social belief of learning rather than a real theory. Various limitations involving the social constructivism, as discussed below, are among the main reasons of the criticisms. To begin with, the power of solidarity learning is ignored by the social constructivism. Much of what individuals learn in the world is learned on their own, starting from their low education through university and in the outside world. The individuals associate themselves with very few others for consultations, but majorly they involve themselves alone in learning. It is not due the fact that they have already learned everything but because the contexts of social constructivism do not consider that all learning are required to be social.

Another limitation of social constructivism is the fact that it blocks practices based on evidence relying on universal theory the response is that every criticism and anything said against it is a social construct. Moreover, Mvududu and Thiel-Burgess explains that social constructivism damages the less privileged as it increases the learning of individuals that are privileged while reducing the process of learning to the people that are less privileged. Besides, he adds that social constructivism is massively inefficient since it mainly wastes a reasonable amount of time in the attempt of achieving the understanding of what is considered by numerous people to be right. In the view of social structures, the limitations are not deemed to be quite negative on the social fabric since they are mainly based on the theoretical sense of it.

Existence of the role left for the individual subject

The particular issue of the social constructivism is the learner involved in the whole process. According to Orjinta, the learner has a basic role and responsibility since they he or she is considered to be the main unique reason for the whole process of learning. The author argues that the liability of the learner should be a full cooperation with the instructor to develop and increase their understanding of various aspects and situations around the world. Moreover, the learning process is supposed to equip the learners with the basic knowledge required to help them make decisions in their future lives. Therefore, the social constructivism emphasizes the importance of the learners to be actively involved in the learning process since it is their primary role.


The essay has provided the detailed explanation of social constructivism as a theory on the way people develop knowledge and understanding of different aspects of the world. The theory is a combination of several methods with the same elements, put together to form the leading theory to address the various types of issues. The main point of the argument is based upon the social consensus where knowledge and reality are established. Social constructivism is categorized into different variations, all of which have been described in the paper as critical in addressing different issues with different understanding. Furthermore, the paper has explained the aspects of the constructivist theory and the related theoretical schools that are affected by the it. However, the presented theory is not considered by other theorists due to the various limitations involved, as described in the paper.

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