Social Constructivism and the Mediated Learning Experience

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  • 0:05 Introduction
  • 0:44 Background
  • 1:47 Individual and Social…
  • 3:37 Benefits of Social…
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Melissa Hurst
A well-accepted fact among educational psychologists is the idea that knowledge is not absorbed but rather constructed through a person's experiences with his or her environment. This knowledge may be constructed individually or collaboratively. This lesson will briefly explain the processes behind knowledge construction and provide information on how socially constructed knowledge can advance the cognitive development of learners.


People construct knowledge and meanings from the stimuli in their environment, which leads to correct or, sometimes, incorrect meanings.

'Class, we have been discussing weight and measurement. Can you tell me which weighs more, this one-pound bag of feathers or this one-pound bag of bricks? Okay. It seems we have some disagreement. Maybe we can work on these problems in groups.'

As we follow this teacher through her lesson, we will be introduced to knowledge construction, social constructivism and the advantages of collaborative learning environments.


New knowledge is processed in three steps:

  1. Construction
  2. Storage
  3. Retrieval

Construction is a mental (or internal) process in which a learner takes many separate pieces of knowledge and uses them to build an overall understanding or interpretation of a new concept. Storage is the mental process of putting new information into memory, and retrieval is the process of finding and using the information stored in memory.

Students constructing knowledge in groups is known as social constructivism.
Social Constructivism

Sometimes learners can make mistakes, referred to as reconstruction errors, which is when the construction of logical, but incorrect, memory occurs by using information retrieved from long-term memory plus one's general knowledge and beliefs about the world.

Some of the teacher's students were making reconstruction errors. They had prior stored knowledge of bricks weighing more than feathers, so when asked 'Which weighs more?' they incorrectly assumed that it was the bag of bricks despite the fact that both actually weigh the same.

Individual and Social Constructivism

Typically, children learn individually. This is referred to as individual constructivism. Individual constructivism is the theoretical perspective that focuses on how people, as individuals, construct meaning from the events around them.

While individual learning is most common in the classroom, there are also benefits to learners constructing knowledge in groups. This perspective is referred to as social constructivism, which is the perspective that focuses on people's collective efforts to impose meaning on the world. This perspective also emphasizes the importance of culture and context in understanding what occurs in society and constructing knowledge-based individual ways of understanding.

The guiding principles of social constructivism include:

  1. Knowledge is constructed through human activity, and reality is invented jointly by the members of that society.
  2. Individuals create meaning through their interactions with others and the environments they live in.
  3. Finally, learning is social and active, and meaningful learning only occurs when individuals are engaged in social activities.

Through these collective learning efforts, distributed cognition occurs. Distributed cognition is the process in which learners think about an issue or problem together, sharing ideas and working collaboratively to draw conclusions or develop solutions.

A teacher helping a student understand an event is using mediated learning.
Mediated Learning Experience

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