The idea behind constructivism is that the learner is building an internal representation of knowledge, a personal interpretation of experience. This representation is constantly open to change, its structure and linkages forming the foundation to which other knowledge structures are appended. Learning is an active process in which meaning is developed on the basis of experience. Conceptual growth comes from the sharing of multiple perspectives and simultaneous changing of our internal representations in response to those perspectives as well as through cumulative experience (Bednar, 1991).
Therefore, as the days pass, an individual's perception of the meaning of new thoughts or ideas that he knows from other people may change everyday. He may gain new ideas everyday and may experience new things everyday. These experiences may influence his perception of the idea that he acquires from other people. This is the level where he creates his own opinion of this idea.
Constructivism is one of the first theories in acquiring knowledge. Founded on Kantian beliefs, it is a theory of learning based on the idea that knowledge is constructed by the knower on metal activity. In this stage, humans are recognized as perceivers and interpreters who construct their own reality through engaging in those mental activities (Bednar, 1991).
Learners are considered to be active organisms seeking meaning. The constructivism theory believes that the constructions of meaning may initially bear little relationship to reality but will become increasing more complex, differentiated and realistic as time goes on. Thinking is grounded in perception of physical and social experiences, which can only be comprehended by the mind. What the mind produces are mental models that explain to the knower what he or she has perceived. People all conceive of the external reality somewhat differently, based on the unique set of experiences with the world and the beliefs about them (Bednar, 1991).
The next important level in the learning process is Epistemology. It is the study of what is really meant by "knowledge." As opposed to Constructivism, Epistemology is not merely a creation of perception or having an opinion. This issue has been at the core of Western philosophy since before Socrates, since, until it has been answered, all other questions become unsolvable (academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/virtual/glossary.htm, 2006).
Epistemology is knowing deeply what a person wants to learn and how deep would the learning outcome be. It is being concerned with what is behind knowledge (academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/virtual/glossary.htm, 2006).
Metacognition, the another level of thinking, refers to higher order of thinking that involves an active control over the cognitive processes engaged in learning. It entails planning upon how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating its progress toward the completion of that task. It is thinking before doing something. In the simplest expression, however, it is thinking before thinking. (www.datarat.net/DR/Lex-M.html,2006). An example of this is an awareness and understanding of how one thinks and uses strategies during reading and writing. (www.armour.k12.sd.us/Mary's%20Classes/literary_terms_glossary.htm,2006)
Since all learners are curios by nature, the tendency is to engage into a situation right away to be able to learn about the new things that he has discovered. However in this level of thinking, this typical human occurrence is contested by this level. Metacognition encourages a deep assessment of the situation first before involving into the act of doing it. A person has to study first the things that he might be doing in order to learn what he really wants to know. At this point, a person has to create within his thoughts the mode of learning that he would want to undergo to be able to satisfy the need for knowing the true meaning of the new ideas he has acquired.
A person has to be creative in his strategies to make the learning process more meaningful and satisfactory for him. He has to become aware of the consequences of the course that he intended to follow. The need to analyze the capabilities and the willingness to take the risk upon the learning process should be put into consideration. Most importantly, one has to know exactly what he wants to learn about.
Cognitive development, another theory of learning refers to how a person perceives, thinks, and gains an understanding of the world. This is in response to the interaction and influence of genetic and learned factor. Among the areas of cognitive development are information processing, intelligence, reasoning, language development and memory (Wadsworth, 2003)
In this theory, as opposed to the Gestalt Theory of Learning, there is a creation of schemas, which are the mental models of how the world works. These schemas are the organized patterns of behavior of people in the society. In cognitive development, assimilation and accommodation are the two general processes of learning. Assimilation is the putting new things into old schemas or merely adding of information to the existing structure. Accommodation is modifying existing schemas to fit new experiences. (http://io.uwinnipeg.ca/~epritch1/pianalz.htm,2006).
It can be summarized from these points-of-views that Gestalt Theory of Learning and the Constructivism point-of-view are very much similar in terms of establishing a learning experience. Both theories highlight stimulus, feedbacks, and previous experiences that take part to the ultimate learning endeavor.
On the other hand, when compared to other ideas of learning such as in the cognitive approach or the idea of epistemology and metacognition among others, although the end result is just the same - learning undertaking - the very methods of processing the learning are very different. Processing, reasoning and/or language development - these are all part of the succeeding steps of learning. Thus, it can be inferred that Gestalt Theory of Learning can be considered as the most basic and the initial step to facilitating learning, while the other theories of learning may be used after the Gestalt theory application.
Gestalt Theory and Principles of learning is very much useful then and now. Any teacher or educator who would want to facilitate a successful learning endeavor can use and apply the theories suggested in this theory of learning for the result is always astounding.
It should be noted that just the fact that trace memory, constructivism and memory recognition are important aspect of the Gestalt principle makes it a powerful tool for learning. The most important thoughts to consider when it comes to Gestalt theory of learning are:
Every first experience will always be used for further learning.
Every lessons gained in the past will be used to assimilate new learning.
Stimuli and responses will always go hand in hand
Trace memory is used to successfully solve a problem
Insights and perceptions also leads to problem solving skills
Forgetting would mean difficulty in solving the problem
All the above-stated thoughts are part of the Gestalt Theory and Principles pf learning. once a learner and an educator manages to handles all these properly, then the learning outcome will prove to be successful.
Bednar, A.K., et al. (1991). Theory into practice: How do we link? G. Anglin (Ed.), Instructional Technology: Past, Present and Future. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.
Blosser, P. (1973). Principles of Gestalt psychology and their application to teaching junior high school science. Science Education, 57, 43-53