Back to: Learning and Teaching – Unit 3
Jerome Bruner is regarded as one of the most influential and renowned educational psychologists of the twentieth century. He developed the constructivist theory which suggests that learners construct new knowledge based on their previous knowledge.
Social Constructivist Theory
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.
Jerome Bruner Three Modes of Representation
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.
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.
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.