South African Journal of Higher Education

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A constructivist approach to learning and teaching

E Venter


Over the past few years many changes have taken place in the content and presentation of programmes for teacher education and training in South Africa, because a philosophy of education that encouraged enquiry, discussion, debate and lifelong learning became increasingly important. "[M]any researchers and practitioners have begun to view the classroom as a place in which teachers and students construct knowledge and negotiate meanings together ... In a complex, multicultural society such as ours, truth takes many forms. Different contexts and different subcultures support different ways of constructing knowledge, and different ways of understanding what it means to 'know' something" (Morrison & Collins 1995:39). Students are, however, still inclined to think of knowledge as a packet of content waiting to be transmitted. Instruction is merely a product to be delivered by a vehicle (Wilson 1995). This vehicle to these students is presumably the lecturer. He/she could only give certain factual, subject oriented knowledge through to them with the necessary guidance concerning examinations and assignments and the students would apparently be happy with what they would call "good teaching". If one, however, only opts for a minimalist-learning environment where feedback from the lecturer is all that matters, with relatively few tools for manipulating and observing content, exploration and problem solving are not really possible. In richer environments the lecturers should put more control of the environment in the hands of the learners (Wilson 1995). In this article I would like to propose a constructivist approach to learning and teaching in the education and training of teachers to enable them to use it in their own classrooms.

South African Journal of Higher Education Vol.15(2) 2001: 86-92
AJOL African Journals Online