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The constructionist philosophy of education is an alternative to the more traditional "banking" style of education. The banking style basically treats teaching as a transferal of knowledge; the students are empty vessels to be filled with the knowledge the teacher deems appropriate. Constructionists disagree with this philosophy. Instead, they view education as a constructive practice. In other words, the student is not just an empty vessel. The student learns (more effectively) when he/she is taught to construct mental concepts and real world scientific and social objects. Instead of mindlessly absorbing information, the student takes an active, creative role of gathering information and mentally and physically constructing knowledge him/herself. Constructivism is often associated with terms such as "active learning."
In terms of teaching in this style, the focus shifts from the content and the teacher to the student. The teacher is more Socratic in this way, facilitating and asking questions of the student so that the student can arrive at (construct) his/her own answers. The student learns about the world by reconstructing it; not by reproducing it like a Xerox machine. This philosophy of learning has its roots in the theory that we actively construct the world we experience. In other words, we don't passively or objectively experience the world as if we were mirrors. Rather, in perceiving the world, we construct it as we experience it.
Notable in the field, recently, is Seymour Papert, who has done a lot of work with the role of computers in education. His theories on constructivism derive from his mentor, Jean Piaget.
Constructionism builds on constructivism by including the practice of building actual, tangible objects. This supplements the idea of the student learning by forming mental constructions with building physical constructions. Constructionist teachers also encourage the student to reflect on the process. If the problem has an application in the real world, all the better. John Dewey was another forerunner of this kind of educational reform. He argued for "hands-on" learning and rejected the idea of students as passive vessels waiting to receive information.
In this style of education, because the focus shifts from the teacher and content to the student, the practice of education becomes more interactive and therefore more social. Consequently, this style has been considered a more democratic method of education.
Class discussions (and/or online discussions) and field trips help develop the social and real world aspects of constructionism. Physical constructions such as artworks, books, models, or computer programs help the student associate mental constructions with tangible constructions and products in the world.
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