Learning & Teaching Foreign Languages

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Puzzlement

Read and Reflect

In their discussion of the distinction between cognitive and sociocultural constructivism, Duffy and Cunningham (1996) discuss a critical element of constructivist learning theory.  

The individual cognitive approach derives from Piagetian theory (Piaget, 1977) and is closely associated with the current writings of Ernst von Glasersfeld (1984, 1989, 1992) [..]. This view emphasizes the constructive activity of the individual as he or she tries to make sense of the world. Learning is seen to occur when the learner's expectations are not met, and he or she must resolve the discrepancy between what was expected and what was actually encountered. Thus, the learning is in the individual's constructions as he or she attempts to resolve the conflict, or, alternatively put, individuals literally construct themselves and their world by accommodating to experiences. The conflict in Piagetian terms is known as disequilibration, but Dewey refers to the same stimulus as a perturbation. The first author has preferred the more neutral term puzzlement (Savery & Duffy, 1995). From this perspective, the importance of the teacher and other students is as a source of perturbation or puzzlement as a stimulus for the individual's learning. As von Glasersfeld (1989) notes, people, by far, offer the most effective and ready-at-hand source of perturbation of a learner's current understanding.

 

1. What various names are given to this experience?  

2. Why is it important to learning?  

3. What is the most common source of such learning opportunities?  

 

ANSWERS

1. What various names are given to this experience?

disequilibration (Piaget); perturbation (Dewey); puzzlement (Duffy)

 

2. Why is it important to learning?

It forces learners to construct new knowledge in order to resolve the conflict.

 

3. What is the most common source of such learning opportunities?
   Other people (teacher or other students).

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