Social Constructivism Meets Social Media



Social LearningDirect instruction is still and amazingly popular method of teaching. This holds true even though the majority of the student population requires dynamic, modern teaching methods.  A complete opposite to traditional pedagogy is social constructivism, which proposes that students learn best about a given topic when interacting with other learners.

This idea, also sometimes known as social learning theory, has recently been bolstered by Dr. Richard J. Light of the Harvard School of Education.  Although many might believe teaching style may be the primary factor of student success, Dr. Light has a different contention, at least in regard to college students.

According to Dr. Light, the ability of college students to participate in small study groups is the most important determinant of academic success.  Furthermore, students who study with other students at least once per week are more engaged and better prepared than students who study solo.

This has deep implications for social media and its application inside and outside of the classroom walls.  Discussing curricular topics via social media is the modern version of face-to-face study groups at a library or home.  But unlike traditional study groups, tech-savvy teachers can join in and geographic limitations are erased.

Although Dr. Light’s research on social constructivism’s significance is focused on higher education, the benefits are not likely to be confined to only college-age students.  I’m hopeful teacher will engage in their own Action Research projects and share their results.


Timothy Pettine 04-03-2012, 10:38

I am happy to hear that the research is going to focus upon university learning. I am a high school teacher and allowing class time for students to approach guided questions in a group is good for so many skills and brain development. The act of talking and sharing their understandings on higher level thinking questions will have serious leverage on future learning and self-regulation. I see integration of reverse instruction fitting into this model of learning as well. Thanks for sharing this information and I will eagerly awaiting the results of the action research.

Ben Summerton 30-03-2012, 20:50

I agree. Social constructivism is indeed what our students expect, given that this is the culture they belong to, as cultivated by social online medias. This type of pedagogy cannot easily be adopted by teachers in isolation within their school, or especially within schools that have little history of this. It reinforces the idea that as teachers we too need to adopt social constructivist pedagogues, and to adopt teaching and learning principles in teams. This can transform the learning culture of classes and whole schools over time. Having taught in schools that have proven very challenging to these ideas, I speak with experience!

Charles Phillips 04-04-2012, 18:18

Great discussion topic! Totally confirm experientially both as continual learner and professor on the value of discussion and importance of socialedia as a tool for learning outcomes. Our challenge as educator is to employ multigogy into our instructing style. Multigogy recognizes that their are multilple intelligences and thus a need for multiple approaches. I have found students comfortable with social media embrace its use for social learning. Others less familiar or even resistant often regard it as a gimmick or artificial device. Social constructionism is not static we will continue to find new ways to learn and find meaning in our lives. We best not underestimate the power that social media is already exerting to dispell the mystique of education. Nor can we forget that not only each generation but individual learners will experimentally discover how to unlock the doors to learning.

Aruna Jyothi 20-04-2013, 12:47

I am a teacher in Hyderabad, India in a school for children from vulnerable economic conditions. My classroom is a typical example of national statistics showing BPL families spend on mobile phone than in health. As they live around slums and so prone to various social evils, after many attempts to drag their attention onto studies after school, one of the main challenges is to gather them in particular time as they have their own responsibilities along exposures to cut-short language. Out of various attempts, one of them was asking them to be in touch with their mobiles but rules say ‘Only English’ ‘No short cuts – to the convenience of English beginners’ ‘one social topic for week in observation for discussion’. As a volunteer in multiple projects, now I am in Uganda. Now, we are continuing this in Facebook (switched as soon as we observed FB presence of students in growing and it is difficult to see them physically together due to their respective responsibilities). I am trying out various possibilities of interactions using technology. Thanks indeed this is a very useful article.


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