THE POSITION OF SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVIST APPROACH TO ACADEMIC MATERIALS DEVELOPMENT
Islamic Azad University, Zanjan Branch (IRAN)
One of the main pitfalls in academic textbook development appears to be the fallacious advocacy of the traditional view of learning which considers mere transmission of an immense amount of teacher- and learner-proof knowledge on the part of teachers and regurgitation of this knowledge taken as facts on the pan of learners as the optimal outcomes. That is, the main concern is the size of information transferred to learners at the cost of developing their ability to construct knowledge and come to a personal sense and relevance of the conceptual schemes. Addressing such a flawed approach to learning, the social constructivist approach has highlighted the contributory role of two important principles in learning: one, arising from its constructivist basis, is to improve the ability of learners to actively construct knowledge rather than passively receive it from teachers and materials, and the other one, originating from its social aspect, is to establish social relationships and dynamic interactions between instructors, learners, and tasks within a social context which results in the ability to construct knowledge. While the traditional approach, at best, increases learners' context-reduced and inert knowledge, which is useful just on test occasions, the latter enhances learners' abilities of problem-solving, critical reflection, and thoughtful application of and contribution to knowledge based on a deep understanding of what is happening in the social context. Given the import of such abilities in academia, this article intends to shed light on the ramifications of the former framework and the advantages of a social constructivist approach to academic textbook development. To this end, it starts with a review of both approaches and compares them in terms of different educational dimensions of teachers' and learners' roles, instructional characteristics, and learning processes. In the closing, it foregrounds the merits of the social constructivist approach and dwells on some ways of applying this view in designing tasks and presenting subjects in academic materials.