Applied Linguistics

What is constructivist approach/Psychological constructivism

The constructivist approach

It is known that psychology is a young science, which has not yet fully matured. One of its aspects in which this becomes more evident is the fact that within psychology there is no unifying theory, that is, a theoretical pillar on which all the knowledge that is extracted from researchers is based. What is constructivist approach?

On the other hand, there are many schools of thought and totally different approaches and starting points, and to a large extent, contrary to each other. Constructivism is one of these sets of academic currents, and historically it has been very important, especially in  educational psychology

It is very possible that people who have studied philosophy are familiar with the term “constructivism”, because it can be used to refer to a philosophical trend that emerged in the twentieth century and closely related to postmodern thought. From this philosophical constructivism, emphasis is placed on the interpretive component of everything that we come to know, instead of underlining the importance of aspiring to objectivity and realism.

Thus, there is moderate constructivism that limits itself to maintaining that reality cannot be directly known and that our totally subjective interpretations will be the foundation of what we think we know, and another radical constructivism according to which reality is, directly, the construction that we make from our interpretations. In other words, reality, as we usually understand it, does not exist, because it is not independent of our thoughts and cannot be detached from our mental activity.

The difference between moderate and “extremist” constructivism is that the former does not deny the existence of a material reality beyond ideas, while the latter does. However, both are part of a current of thought that addresses epistemological and ontological problems, and that is why they formally belong to philosophy and not to psychology. The constructivism of psychology is something that arises from other types of questions, although as we will see it has several similarities with its philosophical relative. What is constructivist approach?

Psychological constructivism

If philosophical constructivism is in charge of trying to answer the unknown of what it is that we can get to know and in what way this knowledge is related to “reality”, the constructivism of psychology is much more pragmatic and focuses on studying from what way is learning and the generation of meaning schemes carried out in our way of thinking in order to apply these scientific discoveries, especially in two branches of psychology: psychotherapy and educational psychology.

In this way, the idea of ​​”construction of knowledge” that is used in the constructivism of psychology is less abstract than that of its analog of philosophy, and its reason for being is in the need to create scientific theories capable of predicting part of what will happen in people’s behavior (in general), and of providing solutions to specific problems (in particular).

Thus, the constructivism of psychology can be defined as a set of theories and schools of thought (belonging to this scientific field) that are based on the idea that the way in which individuals generate knowledge from their experiences is through an active role in which they create unique meaning systems whose value is not in resembling more or less reality.

Two examples: Piaget and Vygotsky What is constructivist approach?

Among the researchers who are normally considered part of constructivism in psychology are two of the great figures in the history of developmental and educational psychology: Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky.

Both started from the idea that the engine of knowledge creation from which learning develops is the interaction with the environment (and, in Vygotsky’s case, with the society in which one lives), driven by curiosity. Therefore, it is not a task-based on internal activities, but something that arises from the relationship with the immediate context. What is constructivist approach?

This idea is reflected in their way of understanding childhood, a stage marked by the forced creation of systems of meaning that, although they do not reflect reality at all, are very useful to continue learning quickly from previous experiences. which allows learning to exist. We may not live having reliable images of what is happening, but at least these allow us to cope in a correct way with those problems that assail us, regardless of the stage of life in which we find ourselves.

Between theoretical currents and philosophy

As we have seen, constructivism is a very heterogeneous set of ideas that are only united by a very broad nexus that is quite difficult to define. In other words, the concept of constructivism in psychology is broader than the definitions of typical psychological currents, such as behaviorism or cognitivism. What is constructivist approach?

And, of course, it is perfectly possible that there are several theories that can be encompassed within constructivism and that despite this they are hardly compatible with each other or that they cannot even be connected through applied psychology. At the end of the day, being part of this bundle of theories does not imply using the same methods or the same tools, and there is nothing in the definition of constructivism that implies embracing several very concrete commitments about what needs to be done and how it should be done. What is constructivist approach?

The constructivism of psychology may be a set of theories, but it is such an abstract category that it is only one step away from entering the realm of philosophy. In fact, it is very easy for the way in which constructivism indicates that the value of the meaning systems that we create to generate knowledge have value by themselves goes from being a purely scientific position (and therefore useful to reach certain objectives) to a philosophical and moral stance without our realizing it. Sometimes it can become a political discourse on how education should be based solely on a certain scale of values ​​in which the idea that students should have a lot of freedom occupies a high position.

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