The Role Of Social Constructivism In Education

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Introduction -
While reading various texts that Ann Brown has written I began to see that her opinion was that the goal of social studies educators is to foster the development of effective citizens. But to properly approach this goal, I seen there needs to be a shift from what Dewey called the “traditional” structure of education (Dewey, 1938). In the current or traditional method, one proposed method to change this process is the application of the theory of social constructivism. Social constructivism focuses on the role that social interaction plays in creating knowledge. According to this, model knowledge is formed based on social interaction and social consensus. It is from this perspective that social studies could be effectively addressed.
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The fundamental purpose of social studies is to educate students on how to become effective citizens (Brown, 1999). The ex President of the National Council of the Social Studies (NCSS), Richard Theisen, further enforces this by saying, “We have a mission, the education of children and young adult for citizenship” (Theisen, 2000). The NCSS is a professional organization which is ran and supported by social studies educators nationwide. The NCSS supports the use of constructivist methods in the classrooms (NCSS, 1994). The discipline of social studies is very complex and dynamic. The social studies content requires the educator to have a broad educational background. The subject areas commonly associated with social studies are history, geography, political science, and economics. However, social studies teachers often have to cover other subject areas such as sociology, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and many others (Martorella, 1997). This diverse subject matter places a social studies teacher in a position where they must be well trained in a variety of disciplines. Currently, in many classrooms, social studies are taught through teacher-centered activities. This involves techniques like memorization of facts, lectures, and a heavy reliance on textbooks (Rice & Wilson, 1999). This style of teaching is what Dewey…show more content…
It is essential to understanding the social constructivist theory that you understand Gergen’s view of the subject. Gergen supports a form of social constructivism referred to as social constructionism. This theory is very similar to the social constructivist theory on how people create knowledge One problem that Gergen identifies is the problem of knowing other minds (1995). This is essential to his theory, because like social constructivism, social constructionism requires two separate actors. Gergen (1995) suggest, “that the contents of these minds are expressed in words and actions, how are we to determine what internal states these words and actions are attempting to express? The problem is especially perplexing because we are confronted only by word and actions” (Gergen, 1995)Being unaware of what the other party brings to an interaction is what allows for knowledge to be generated during the course of the interaction. This is due to the fact that others’ prior knowledge, as well as your own, allow one to construct a new meaning, or knowledge, after an interaction occurs. Gergen (1995) further argues that the meaning of words and actions “is not derived by comparing them against the subjectivity of their authors, but against the governing conventions of the communities in which we reside”. Simply, words and actions are context dependent. Gergen
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