There are many other theories on learning, a lot of which are derived from, or are complementary to the “main” theories.
Social constructivism, which some argue is an extension of constructivism (Kim 2001) while others espouse it as a theory in its own right (Powell, Kalina 2009), argues that learners learn more and better from other learners. Group work is at the centre of this theory and group activities form the basis of its teaching strategy.
Others include Communities of Practice (COP), where often the motivator is extrinsic rather than intrinsic (Wenger, McDermott, Schneider 2002) and situated learning where learning is embedded in a situation which causes learning to occur.
How I apply it in practice – Using Other Theories
The obvious application for social constructivism is through the use of group work. This has been used as part of my teaching for a long time in first year where class numbers are high and group assignments lead to certain efficiencies in corrections and grading etc. However, this is an area where I have not thought specifically about creating assessments to help learners to learn from each other.
I have started to think of activities which are group based but each team member must learn something, a skill or set of facts, and share it with others to complete the assignment something like a jigsaw schema (Aronson, 1978; Hoppe & Ploetzner, 1999) where resources are divided in such a way that peers have dependent information, and are “forced” to collaborate to achieve a common goal. This is a great challenge but is one that I feel could create an innovative and rewarding experience for the students and not just a convenience for me.
In relation to communities of practice I often create a discussion forum within each of my modules for students to post queries and other course-related material. This year I included a tagline on the first year forums for students to introduce themselves and give some brief information about themselves. The rate of participation was much greater than expected, and a number of students have now identified common external interests and connections – this year the College will field its first inter-varsity table tennis team! The students have also created a Facebook group page, which is moderated by two students (who are also the class reps) and I have purposely avoided joining the group so that they can feel this is a place they can discuss all issues in confidence.
Aronson, E. (1978). The jigsaw classroom. Sage.
Hoppe, H. U., & Ploetzner, R. (1999). Can analytic models support learning in groups. Collaborative-learning: Cognitive and computational approaches, 147-168.
Kim, B. (2001). Social constructivism. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology, 1-8
Powell, K. C., & Kalina, C. J. (2009). Cognitive and social constructivism: Developing tools for an effective classroom. Education, 130(2), 241-250.
Seely Brown, John -Learning in a digital age [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNwCGWXK6YU (long video)
Wenger, E., McDermott, R. A., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Harvard Business Press.