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Psychology Applied to Teaching, Eleventh Edition
Jack Snowman, Southern Illinois University
Robert Biehler
Chapter Themes
Chapter 10: Constructivist Learning Theory, Problem Solving, And Transfer

Constructivism is a cognitive perspective of learning.
According to a constructivist model, what a person "knows" is not received passively, but actively assembled or constructed by the learner. That is, in order for information to take on personal meaning, individuals must actively engage the material they are attempting to learn. We construct knowledge of ideas and experiences. These personal constructions mediate all further "knowledge."

Both cognition and social interactions are relevant to constructivist learning theory.
Some theorists and researchers, for example Piaget, place a stronger emphasis on cognitive processes in constructivist learning. People in this camp are referred to as "cognitive constructivists." In contrast, "social constructivists," such as Vygotsky, place a stronger emphasis on culture and social interaction in student learning. Although cognitive and social constructivist perspectives emphasize different aspects of learning, they are not incompatible.

Problem solving, when used effectively, is a valuable cognitive learning tool.
Problem solving refers to individuals confronting and solving problems related to a variety of contexts. Some problems are well structured while others are not. It is important that students have opportunities to practice both types of problems. By selecting appropriate problems and providing students with needed support and strategies, teachers can use problem solving as a way to actively involve students in their own learning.

Transfer of learning is important and can occur in a variety of ways.
An important goal for any teacher is to help students transfer information learned in the classroom to outside situations or similar problems. New information that is presented to students has the potential of interfering with or facilitating transfer of previously learned information and strategies. Low-road transfer is relatively automatic and is more likely to occur with multiple and varied practice. High-road transfer involves conscious effort and requires metacognitive skill development.

Technology can help students construct their own knowledge, learn problem solving skills, and help facilitate transfer of learning.
In recent years, teachers have been using computers to support knowledge construction and exploration. As a result, a variety of computer applications have been developed that encourage students to take an active role in their own learning. Technology can also be used to place students in problem solving situations and to set up tasks to check for learning transfer.