Constructivist Perspective

Constructivism refers to a category of learning theories in which emphasis is placed on the agency and prior knowledge of the learner, and often on the social and cultural determinants of the learning process. Educational psychologists distinguish individual (or psychological) constructivism, identified with Piaget's learning theory, from social constructivism. A dominant influence on the latter type is Lev Vygotsky's work on socio-cultural learning, describing how interactions with adults, more capable peers, and cognitive tools are internalized to form mental constructs. Elaborating on Vygotsky's theory, Jerome Bruner and other educational psychologists developed the important concept of instructional scaffolding, in which the social or information environment offers supports for learning that are gradually withdrawn as they become internalized.

Vygotsky's version of constructivist theory has led to the view that behavior, skills, attitudes and beliefs are inherently situated, that is, bound to a specific socio-cultural setting. According to this view, the learner is enculturated through social interactions within a community of practice. The social constructivist view of learning has spawned approaches to teaching and learning such as cognitive apprenticeship, in which the tacit components of a complex skill are made explicit through conversational interactions occurring between expert and novice in the setting in which the skill is embedded.