Jerome Bruner

1 January 2017

He attended and received his B. A. from Duke University in 1937 and his Ph. D from Harvard University in 1941. As an American psychologist, he has contributed greatly to cognitive psychology and the cognitive learning theory in educational psychology, as well as to history and the general philosophy of education. He was on the faculty in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University from 1952 – 1972. He published his book “The Process of Education” in 1960.

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This book influenced many young researchers and led to a great deal of experimentation and a wide range of educational programs. In the early 70’s, he left Harvard University to become a tutor at the University of Oxford up until 1979, after which he returned to Harvard University. Later he joined the New York University of Law, where he became a Senior Researcher (at the age of 93). THEORY Jerome Bruner is one of the founding fathers of Constructivist Theory. Constructivism is an extensive theoretical framework with several perspectives, and Bruner’s is only one.

Bruner’s hypothetical framework is based on the theme that learners create new ideas or concepts based upon existing knowledge. Learning is an active process. Aspects of the process include selection and transformation of information, decision making, generating hypotheses, and making meaning from information and experiences. Jerome Bruner believes that teachers need: •To understand the relationship between motivation and learning; •To understand how structure relates to the whole; To learn to form “global concepts”; •

To learn how to build “coherent patterns” of learning; •To understand that facts without meaning are not learned; and •To believe that any subject can be taught to any child. (“Any subject can be taught effectively in some intellectually honest form to any child at any stage of development” (Bruner, 1960, p. 33). Four Key themes emerged in Bruner’s early work.

These were: a)the Structure which refers to relationships among factual elements and techniques. )the Spiral Curriculum which refers to the idea of reiterating basic ideas over and over, building upon them and elaborating on the concepts to the level of full understanding and mastery. Bruner believed that any subject could be taught at any stage of development in a way that fit the child’s cognitive abilities. c)intuitive and analytical thinking which Bruner considered should both be rewarded and encouraged. d)motivation for learning which he felt that interest in the subject matter was the best stimulus for learning. Ideally’, Jerome Bruner writes, interest in the material to be learned is the best stimulus to learning, rather than such external goals as grades or later competitive advantage’ (ibid. : 14).

The following are the four features of Bruner’s Theory of Instruction. a)Predisposition to learn: This aspect in particular states the experiences which move the learner toward a love of learning in general, or of learning something specifically. Motivational, cultural, and personal factors contribute to this. Bruner accentuated social factors and early teachers’ and parents’ influence on this.

He believed learning and problem solving emerged out of exploration. Part of the task of a teacher is to preserve and guide a child’s natural explorations. b)The Structure of Knowledge: In this feature, he believes that it is possible to structure knowledge in such a way that enables the learner to more readily grasp the information. c)Modes of Representation: He believes that children go through three stages of intellectual development or main changes before reaching maturity. These are: the enactive stage; the iconic stage; and the symbolic stage. i)The enactive stage: “knowledge is stored primarily in the form of motor responses. ” (Alexander 2002). In this stage, children learn through the form of motor skills and experimentation by the manipulation of objects in their environment. e. g. a child may see a colourful toy and become fascinated by it, but the said toy only becomes real to the child if the child can see, touch or manipulate it. This stage spans from birth to eighteen months of age. (ii)The iconic stage: “knowledge is stored primarily in the form of visual images” (Alexander 2002. In this stage, a child learns through viewing of objects.

The individual is able to develop mental images of events. e. g. (iii)The symbolic stage: “knowledge is stored primarily as words, mathematical symbols, or in other symbol systems” (Alexander 2002). In this stage, the learner develops the capacity to think in abstract terms and uses language or other symbols to represent information. e. g. knowing that x + 2 = 6, therefore the value of x must be 4. Based on this three-stage notion, Bruner recommended that using a combination of concrete, pictorial and then symbolic activities will lead to more effective learning.

However, unlike Jean Piaget’s theory, Bruner does not restrict these developmental stages to any specific age group but believes that these can be applied all through life. This example is taken from Bruner (1973): “The concept of prime numbers appears to be more readily grasped when the child, through construction, discovers that certain handfuls of beans cannot be laid out in completed rows and columns. Such quantities have either to be laid out in a single file or in an incomplete row-column design in which there is always one extra or one too few to fill the pattern.

These patterns, the child learns, happen to be called prime. It is easy for the child to go from this step to the recognition that a multiple table, so called, is a record sheet of quantities in completed multiple rows and columns. Here is factoring, multiplication and primes in a construction that can be visualized. ” Figure 1 A child would begin at the bottom of the pyramid and eventually escalate to the peak. d)Effective sequencing which suggests that learning takes place in the order of the aforementioned modes of representation.

Bruner’s theories emphasize the significance of categorization in learning. “To perceive is to categorize, to conceptualize is to categorize, to learn is to form categories, to make decisions is to categorize. ” Interpreting information and experiences by similarities and differences is a key concept. (Jerome Bruner) SECTION B Scaffolding can be very useful in the learning process. This is a key derived from Vygotsky’s notion of social learning (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976). This is basically the assistance provided by adults or more competent peers in the process of learning.

This provides the child with a great deal of support in the earlier stages of learning, and then lessens that support or help when the child becomes more confident and is able to carry out given tasks on its own. Some types of scaffolding are: i) Reciprocal Scaffolding – A teacher in the classroom may use reciprocal scaffolding as a means to help pupils further understand a concept that is taught. This can come in the form of grouping students together (this can be a small group of about three or four pupils).

These pupils should also have a diversity of levels whereas they would be able to learn from each other’s knowledge and experience. Assign a task to these pupils and allow them to come up with their own solution to the problem. According to the theory, this method gives the weaker child the opportunity to develop higher-level thinking skills. ii) Contingent Scaffolding – With this type of scaffolding, a teacher may circulate around the classroom giving each pupil the opportunity to converse with him/ her on a one-on-one basis.

The teacher would be able to view and question each child’s methods individually and be able to provide constructive feedback. According to the encyclopedia of primary education, (Hayes, 2010) Discovery Learning is an open ended form of problem solving in which the teacher provides an introductory activity or stimulus on a relevant theme or topic to gain the children’s interest, stir their natural curiosity and raise the level of enthusiasm and motivation. One type of discovery learning is: i)Guided Discovery – this is a reflective teaching technique.

With guided discovery, a teacher may provide pupils with adequate background information on a specific topic. The pupils are then given the opportunity and much of the responsibility for finding relationships and organizing knowledge. The teacher may ask pupils to discuss familiar topics. The teacher is careful to provide the necessary guidance to ensure that discovery and learning occur. Guided discovery is generally more effective than open discovery learning (Mayer, 2002).

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