Understanding a Constructivist

Prior to beginning this assignment, please review all the required readings, videos, and any relevant Instructor Guidance. It is suggested that you review the recommended resources for this week as a number of them may assist you in creating this written assignment with links to applicable articles.

Please note that for many of you, this might be the first time to write a paper about someone you have no current information about. Thus, it is very important that you know how to synthesize information so that it is your work, and not accidentally someone else’s. One suggestion as you begin to read about one of the researchers is to just jot down notes about them as you read. Be careful not to copy paste information into a document with intentions of re-writing it. Sometimes areas get forgotten and when your writing matches other sources, it can negatively affect not only your grade, but also your entire academic journey, so please heed this advice and ask for assistance from your instructor if you need it. Thus, we have included a link to a guide that could be very assistive in your success.

Over the past weeks, you have been introduced to Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism in relationship to learning psychology. To further expand your knowledge and understanding of Constructivism and its theoretical components/principles, in this paper you will research and write about one of the prominent constructivists listed below:

John Dewey (1859–1952)

To successfully accomplish this assignment:
First, create the following headings and subheadings in your paper to indicate the organization of your information.  (Note: The bullets will not be included in your paper and are included here only for organizational purposes.) Introduction- The introduction is based on the principle of introducing the topic of the paper. A good introduction explains what you will be addressing. In this paper it will specifically, in a broad way, clarify each area (below) that you will be discussing. Often, writer’s write this last to make sure nothing is forgotten.  For more information please click here . Researcher’s Biography/Background (Vygotsky’s Biography) – Under this heading you will provide the important historical perspectives of your subject’s life and work and how these influenced his/her work in this field. Information on the subject’s personal and professional background should be logically presented. Researcher’s Theoretical Perspectives- Under this heading you will describe the theoretical perspectives and other major concepts pioneered or promoted by your subject. Experiments and Findings -Under this subheading you will provide a thorough summary of at least two empirical research projects your subject performed including the empirical findings of the research. Historical Trends – Under this subheading you will provide information on the trends which lead to your subject’s line of research. Notable Characteristics – Under this subheading you will provide information about the cognitivist and his/her line of research and how it exemplifies the cognitivist constructs. Conclusion – This can be hard to write because the writer thinks everything has already been said. However, this is where the writer leaves behind an impression about the writer and what he/she wrote about. The reader often remembers the last part of what has been read, so consider how you want someone reading your paper to remember about what you wrote. For more information please click here .

Next, apply basic research methods in psychology to your paper by accessing the Ashford University Library and researching at least three appropriate peer-reviewed articles about your assigned researcher. Write key words under each heading to help you remember what you have read. Be sure to use these sources to support your statements within the paper. Cite your sources according to APA style, but do not directly quote them within your paper. If you have apprehensions about synthesizing the material you read and plan on including in your writing, please click here for additional assistance.

Now you will put it all together, by using the key words to help you write about what you learned. Try not to, at first, use the sources directly. Try to remember what you can and just write about what you learned to avoid plagiarism issues.

After you have accomplished this, go back to your sources adding in the citations of where you learned the information and clarifying points. Read your paper aloud to make sure it makes sense. It is not unusual after writing a paper that our mind will actually fill in the blanks of missed information, but the reader cannot do this, so reading it aloud is helpful.

Make corrections and continue to edit and clean up your paper.

Add your references. Make sure what you include is applied within your paper as well. Do not use quotes if possible.

Use this opportunity to develop your writing skills by submitting to Grammarly (see below).

Writing the “Understanding a Constructivist” Paper
The paper: Must be three to four double-spaced pages in length and formatted according to APA style. Must include a title page with the following:

·         Title of paper

·         Student’s name

·         Course name and number

·         Instructor’s name

·         Date submitted

·         Note : Please do not use a template Must begin with an introductory paragraph that has a succinct thesis statement. Must address the topic of the paper with critical thought. For assistance with the critical thinking portion of the written assignment, please see the information included on the Critical Thinking Community website Must end with a conclusion that reaffirms your thesis. Must use at least three scholarly sources. Must not use quoted material. Please synthesize what you learn about the researcher. For tips on how to do this please click here . Must document all sources in APA style. Must include a separate reference page that is formatted according to APA style. Must be submitted to the Grammarly tool within the course prior to submission. Assignment: Read the articles regarding the Constructivist theory and write a 3 to 4-page paper regarding one renowned constructivistLast name begins with A-C: John Dewey (1859–1952)


Be sure to include biographical information and describe your constructivist’s theoretical perspective. This should include information regarding experimental research and findings.  Your paper must be based on 3 scholarly articles.  Be sure to review the guidelines about this assignment and review the grading rubric for a breakdown of the expectations of components that will be graded.  Your paper must be written in APA format and use section headings. For assistance, the APA website provides a number of resources for learning APA format, including tips, tutorials, and examples. You can access the APA style resources by selecting this link:


 NOTES  that might help….

Operant Learning

 Chapters 5 – 8 discuss the principles of operant conditioning.  As discussed last week, in classical conditioning, the person or animal’s response is generally involuntary.  In operant conditioning, the response is active and voluntary.  For example, if your friends laugh and smile when you tell a joke, you are likely to tell more jokes.  However, if you are a bad joke teller, your friends may frown or ridicule you, which would result in your joking less.

 A psychologist called Edward Thorndike (1874-1949) was one of the pioneers of operant conditioning.  He determined that the frequency of a behavior is modified by its consequences. He went on to develop the law of effect (1911).  The law of effect states that the probability of an action being repeated is strengthened when followed by a pleasant or satisfying consequence.

 B.F Skinner extended Thorndike’s law of effect to more complex behaviors.  He emphasized that reinforcement and punishment always occur after the behavior of interest has occurred.  Skinner also cautioned that the only way to know how we have influenced someone’s behavior is to check whether it increases or decreases.  So, he emphasized objective measurements or observations of behavior.

 Reinforcers, which strengthen a response, can be grouped into two types, primary and secondary.  Primary reinforcers satisfy an intrinsic, unlearned biological need, like food, water, or sex.  Secondary reinforcers are not intrinsic.  They are valuable to us based on experience or learning.  These include things like money, praise, or attention.  Each type of reinforcer can produce positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement depending on whether certain stimuli are added or taken away.

 It is easy to confuse negative reinforcement with punishment, but the two concepts are actually completely opposite.  Reinforcement (either negative or positive) strengthens a behavior, whereas punishment weakens a behavior.  If the terminology seems confusing, it might help to think of positive and negative reinforcement in the mathematical sense—in terms of something be added (+) or taken away  (-)instead of in terms of good and bad.

 Positive reinforcement provides a reinforcer whenever a behavior is performed in order to strengthen that behavior.  For example, children in grade school are often given gold stars for good behavior.  This increases the probability that the child will continue to behave well in the future.

 Negative reinforcement removes a reinforcer to strengthen behavior.  So for example, your baby is crying, so you hug him and he stops crying.  The “removal” of crying strengthens the likelihood that you will hug him again.  Another example is that in newer automobiles, the car will make a loud beeping noise until you fasten your seatbelt.  As a result, you fasten your seatbelt, which removes the irritating beeping noise.  This enhances the likelihood that you buckle your seatbelt again.

 Depending on the outcome that is desired, several different reinforcement schedules can be used.  Schedules of reinforcement are the rates or intervals at which responses are reinforced.  There are many different schedules, but the most important distinction is whether they are continuous or partial.


Continuous reinforcement means that the desired response is reinforced every time it occurs.  When Skinner was training his animals, he found that learning was most rapid if the response was reinforced every time it occurred.In real life continuous reinforcement rarely happens.  However, behavior persists because your efforts are occasionally rewarded.  Most of our everyday behavior is rewarded on a partial (or intermittent) schedule of reinforcement, which involves reinforcing only some responses, not all.  Once a task is learned it’s important to move to a partial schedule of reinforcement.  This is because under partial schedules, behavior is more resistant to extinction.

 There are four partial schedule of reinforcement: fixed ratio (FR), variable ratio (VR), fixed interval (FI) and variable interval (VI).

The type of partial schedule that is used depends on the type of behavior being studied and on the speed of learning desired.  A fixed ratio schedule leads to the highest overall response rate, but each of the four types of partial schedules has different advantages and disadvantages.

The fixed ratio scale is where reinforcement occurs after a predetermined set of responses.  This means that the ratio (the number or amount) is fixed.  This method produces a high response rate, but there is also a brief drop just after reinforcement.  An example of this schedule might be if a car wash employee earns $10 for every 3 cars washed.  Or in the lab, a rat may receive a food pellet when it presses the bar 7 times.

 The next schedule is variable ratio.  Here, reinforcers occur unpredictably.  The ratio varies.  This method also has high response rates.  There is also no pause after reinforcement and behaviors are very resistant to extinction.  An example of the variable ratio schedule includes slot machines.  Different slot machines have varying schedules of reinforcement.  So any one machine may pay out on the first response, the seventh, or even the twentieth.

 The two ratio schedules just discussed are response-based, meaning reinforcement is based on the number of behaviors or responses demonstrated.

 Interval schedules are time based.  In the fixed interval schedule, reinforcement occurs after a predetermined amount of time has passed.  The interval of time is fixed.  The responses to this schedule tend to increase as the time for the next reinforcer is near, but drop off after reinforcement and during the interval.So, for example, you can get a monthly paycheck.  Just after being paid, your performance might improve, but then will drop off to whatever your average is again.

 Lastly, we have the variable interval schedule.  Reinforcement in this schedule occurs unpredictably.  So, the interval of time varies. This method has a relatively low response rate, but responses are steady because the animal or person cannot predict when the reward will come.  An example of this method is the use of pop-quizzes in the classroom.  You may study at a slow but steady rate because you can’t anticipate when the next quiz will be.

 When teaching new and complex behaviors, like learning a new language or playing the piano, shaping is also a valuable tool.  These are behaviors that aren’t likely to occur naturally so shaping helps to solidify these behaviors.  Shaping is reinforcement by a series of successively improved steps leading to the desired response.  For example, there is a female monkey called Momoko in Japan who is famous for water-skiing and other water activities.  Animal trainers used several principles of reinforcement to shape her behavior in many successive steps.

 First they reinforced Momoko with a small food treat for standing or sitting on the water ski.  Then they reinforced her each time she put her hands on the pole.  After that, they slowly dragged the water ski on dry land and reinforced her for staying upright and holding the pole.  They continued reinforcing each step until she was water skiing in the ocean.


Unlike reinforcement, punishment decreases the strength of a response or behavior.  Like reinforcement, there are two types of punishment – positive and negative.  Positive punishment is the addition of a stimulus that decreases (or weakens) the likelihood of a behavior occurring again.  So for example, a parent might give a child extra chores following a bad report card.  Negative punishment is the taking away of a reinforcing stimulus, which decreases (or weakens) the likelihood of the response occurring again.  So here, a parent might take away a teen’s cell phone following a bad report card.


Although punishment plays an unavoidable role in our social world, it can be problematic.  To be effective, punishment should be immediate and consistent.  However, in the real world, this is really hard to do.  Consider the behavior of speeding while driving.  Police officers can’t stop every driver every time they speed.  And when punishment is not immediate, during the delay the behavior is likely to be reinforced on a partial schedule, which makes it highly resistant to extinction.

 Even if punishment immediately follows the misbehavior, the recipient may learn what not to do but not necessarily what to do instead.  Punishment can also have serious side effects.  Some of these side effects include increased aggression, passive aggressiveness (e.g., forgetting on purpose to mail a letter for someone), avoidance behavior, and learned helplessness (e.g., after many failed attempts person acquires sense of powerlessness and makes no further attempts to escape situation).

 In addition to classical and operant conditioning, we learn many things through observational learning.  This involves learning a new behavior or information by watching others.  This is also known as social learning or modeling.  Throughout our lives we learn through observation.  Watching others helps us to avoid dangerous stimuli in our environments.  We also learn how to think and feel and observation shows us how to act and interact socially.

Albert Bandura provided important examples of observational learning in his research with children.  In several experiments, children watched an adult kick, punch, and shout at an inflate clown doll called a Bobo doll.  Later children who had seen the aggressive adult were much more aggressive with the Bobo doll than children who had not seen the aggression.

According to Bandura, observational learning requires at least four separate processes: attention, retention, motor production, and reinforcement.

 Attention means that in order to learn we need to be paying attention.  Retention involves remembering and taking note of what was demonstrated.  Motor reproduction means that in order to imitate a model we need to have the motor skills to carry out the task.  And reinforcement, as you have recently learned, refers to the idea that we are more likely to repeat modeled behavior if the model was reinforced for the behavior. 


Carlson, N. R. (2013). Physiology of Behavior. (11th ed). Pearson.                                                                                                                                                                         Meyers (2007). Psychology. (8th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.

Wade. C. & Tavris, C. (2012). Invitation to Psychology (5th ed.). Boston: Prentice Hall.


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