Is Learning Social or Individul

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Is leaning social or individual is a point of argument. 

Learning is a complex process; I have mentioned it in my previous post.   Also, learning theories cannot provide an all-fitting answer to what activities of the teaching-learning would result in achieving definite learning outcomes and in what situations.  

Vygotsky, a 19th-century educational psychologist, brought a social dimension into learning through social constructivist learning theory. According to this, learning is the result of social interactive communication, is the basis for a child's successful cognitive development; and cognition can result from this interaction. Thus, socialisation is an important factor for the development and learning in the initial developmental stages of a child and throughout its life. Bandura's Social Cognitivism also brings in the social dimension in education; a child's learned behaviour is observable in a social context.

 But, there is one point to consider about socialisation: two children growing up and passing through the developmental stages in the same home with the social interactions of the same parents cannot achieve the same cognitive developments in their life.  

Then we have to consider the personal related learning factors like the emotional and the motivational drives?  Whatever is the level and the merits of the social interaction, unless the individual child has no inner emotional or motivational drive, the learning will suffer.

And, whatever the learning outcomes a child has achieved, they have to be evaluated in the performance evaluation system; for that, they should bring these outcomes before the evaluator and communicate them with clarity for which the language is crucial. So, for example, a learner with language inhibition cannot perform part, which is the case with many learners who get instruction in a second language.  Hence their performance will suffer.

In many learners, inner motivation function as a result of social competition.  This is the case with examinations, tests, and other learning activities.  Such social comparison and interaction can be counter-productive. We cannot forget the cases of the learners committing suicide because of this social comparison.  The social communications at homes, where the parents pressure the children to live to fulfil their own lost dreams, stifle their childrens' natural drive, freedom and independence.  

So far, my point is: learning is social.  And, social interactions and communication are necessary factors for a child's cognitive development and throughout its developmental stages. Personal factors of emotional and motivational drives are also essential factors that decide one's cognitive developments.  Social interaction can also be counter-productive, and language is essential for cognitive development and performance evaluation.  

Applications of Constructivist and Social Constructivist Theories in the Classroom-teaching.

Here, I will compare and contrast the classroom instruction methods from the Constructivist and Vygotsky's Social Constructivist perspectives and their difference from the traditional practices.  

What is Constructivism?

"Constructivism is the theory that says learners construct knowledge rather than just passively take in information.  As people experience the world and reflect upon those experiences, they build their own representations and incorporate new information into their pre-existing knowledge (schemas)."

This is based on Piaget's cognitivist theory.  A learner assimilate knew knowledge based on her previous knowledge and experience.  The actively constructed new knowledge, the learner assimilate and accommodate in line with the existing knowledge. Though learners work in groups, that is not for active interaction to construct knowledge but to be a social experience.  The teacher acts in the role of a facilitator. 

According to Vygotsky's Social Constructuctivism, socio-cultural interaction plays a key role in the learning processes. It does not have developmental stages, as in the case of Piaget.  Learning is co-constructed, and the learners should get involved in the learning process, not only in the product formation. This learning happens with the assistance of other people, which is the social aspect of this theory.  

A fundamental aspect of this theory is the Zone of Proximal Development, ZPD.  This is a"range of tasks that are too difficult for an individual to master alone, but can be mastered with the assistance or guidance of adults or more skilled peers." Remember, the learner gets to know the process of knowledge construction, not only the product. 

The teacher in a social constructivist classroom is not a facilitator, a moderator, and the students should be grouped.  Those who understand the content well are grouped with less understanding. The student who has a better content grasp will also benefit from the group interaction and learn how to present the knowledge to someone who has less grasp. 

Against this, traditional classroom teaching is textbook- guide based.  Teachers disseminate information, learners the recipients. Teachers' role is directive, rooted in authority, assessment through testing and correct answers.  Knowledge inert, learners passive listeners, work alone. Social values like co-operation and compassion not encouraged in the classroom, but competition and grading. 

Post No. 4, part of the BlogChatter Half Marathon




  1. Having completed three-and-a-half decades of teaching, I am constrained to say that most students are unwilling to exert themselves to the point of 'constructive learning'. They just want you to help them score marks in exams. They don't even bother to think for themselves even when provoked.

    1. Your observation is right; constructing knolwedge is a behaviour the learners need to acquire at an earlier stage, it's difficult to adopt later. I have experienced the same challenge in my classrooms--South Africa has introduced Outcome Based Education in 2005. If what matters are merits and credits only, why should they adopt a difficult practice, might be the learner's rational.

  2. An interesting way to learn - wish we could have it in every classroom in our country. Children need to be active participants in learning.


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