This post is about Jerome Bruner’s constructivist theory. Jerome Bruner was one of the most influential constructivists. He was influenced by Piaget’s ideas about cognitive development in children. His ideas have been widely discussed among educators and teachers. Some of Bruner’s theoretical principles focus on these ideas:
- Nature of Learning and learning process.
- Instructional scaffolding
- The intellectual development of the learner
Learning according to the constructivist theory
Learning for Bruner is an active process. The learning process includes according to Bruner:
- selection and transformation of information,
- generating hypotheses,
- and making meaning from information and experiences.
Learners are able to construct new knowledge based on their current or past knowledge.
Bruner focuses on the importance of categorization in every aspect of learning. This is done through the interpretation of information and experiences by similarities and differences.
The focus is on the significance of categorization in learning. “To perceive is to categorize, to conceptualize is to categorize, to learn is to form categories, to make decisions is to categorize.” Interpreting information and experiences by similarities and differences is a key concept.
Bruner emphasized four characteristics of effective instruction that emerged from his theoretical constructs.
- Personalized: instruction should relate to learners’ predisposition, and facilitate interest in learning,
- Content Structure: content should be structured so it can be most easily grasped by the learner
- Sequencing: sequencing is an important aspect of the presentation of material
- Reinforcement: rewards and punishment should be selected and paced appropriately.
Bruner also contends that any child can be instructed any subject in some intellectually honest form any stage of development. This notion led Bruner to present his concept of the spiral curriculum which states that a curriculum should revisit basic ideas, building on them until the student had grasped the full formal concept.
Based on Vygotsky‘s ideas about the Zone of Proximal Development, Jerome Bruner and other educational psychologists developed the important concept of instructional scaffolding. This refers to the process through which able peers or adults offer supports for learning. This assistance becomes gradually less frequent as it becomes unnecessary, as when constructing a building a scaffold is removed.
Bruner postulated three stages of intellectual development in his constructivist theory.
A person learns about the world through actions on physical objects and the outcomes of these actions.
Using models and pictures to obtain learning.
Developing the ability to think in abstract terms.
According to Bruner, when the learner is faced with new knowledge, a combination of concrete, pictorial, and symbolic activities will lead to more effective learning. This holds true even for adult learners. These stages are not necessarily neatly delineated. They are, however, modes of representation that are integrated and only loosely sequential as they “translate” into each other.