Jerome Bruner is regarded as one of the most influential and renowned educational psychologists of the twentieth century. Bruner came up with his learning theory in 1961. According to Bruner’s theory, learning is an active process where information is gathered and new ideas are formed concerning past knowledge and current knowledge. He felt that the focus of education should be intellectual development, rather than rote learning of facts.

The Four Major Aspects of Bruner’s Theory

Jerome Bruner’s theory comes under constructivist learning theory which believes that learning is active. Bruner addressed four major aspects in his theory, which are:

1. A predisposition towards learning.

2. The ways in which a body of knowledge can be structured so that it can be most readily grasped by the learner.

3. The most effective sequences in which to present material, and

4. The nature and pacing of rewards and punishments.

Bruner’s theory puts importance on understanding the structure of information taken in, why active learning is essential for true understanding, and the need for reasoning in learning. He believes a relationship must be there between new information and new information in the learning process. His theory emphasizes the learning process by discovery and recommends reviewing the concepts and materials frequently in the learning process for memorization.

Bruner suggests the idea of connecting one’s prior knowledge with the current knowledge to make the learning process effective. He believed that learning new knowledge depends on the knowledge already known. Bruner felt people should connect their new knowledge with the concepts they are already aware of for proper learning. Hence, Bruner’s theory encouraged us to relate the new information with the old information.

He developed the constructivist theory which suggests that learners construct new knowledge based on their previous knowledge. Social constructivism is an approach to learning that involves the use of existing knowledge to gain new knowledge. This existing knowledge is integrated with new information to expand the knowledge an individual possesses. A learner is considered successful when he or she can embed new information with the previous information he or she holds. A learner, in social constructivism, is always considered to be subjective because they will have different experiences and therefore, will develop a unique perspective of the world.

In 1966, he researched the cognitive development of children and identified three stages of representation namely, the enactive stage, the iconic stage, and the symbolic representation stage. He believed that the intellectual development of an individual should be the primary goal of education instead of rote memorization.

Bruner’s Three Stages of Representation

Enactive Stage

The enactive stage is Bruner’s first stage of representation. It is characterized by encoding and storing information. Objects are directly manipulated disregarding the objects’ internal representation. For instance, when a child shakes a rattle, he or she will expect the rattle to make a noise or sound based on his or her experience.

Iconic Stage

The iconic stage is the second stage of representation. It begins from one to six years old. In this stage, external objects have internal representation through visual forms of mental icons and images. For instance, a child drawing a car is characteristic of this stage.

Symbolic Stage

The symbolic stage is the third stage of representation and starts from seven years and above. During this stage, information storage takes place through symbols or codes such as language. Each symbol is representative of something it relates to. For instance, mangoes are a symbolic representation of one kind of fruit.

According to Bruner, learning happens according to these three stages and the direct manipulation of objects is responsible for the beginning of learning. In the social constructivism learning theory, learners have to play an active role and take part in activities that improve their self-organization skills and creativity.