Role of the Social Constructivist Theory, Andragogy, and Computer-Mediated Instruction (CMI) in Adult ESL Learning and Teaching Environments: How Students Transform Into Self-Directed Learners Through Mobile Technologies

Role of the Social Constructivist Theory, Andragogy, and Computer-Mediated Instruction (CMI) in Adult ESL Learning and Teaching Environments: How Students Transform Into Self-Directed Learners Through Mobile Technologies

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3223-1.ch001
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The purpose of this chapter is to explore whether social constructivism promotes mobile technology rich, student-centered learning/teaching practices, leading adult English as a second language (ESL) students to transform into self-directed learners. Under this theory, a shift from teacher-centered English language learning to a student-oriented approach to how students acquire basic English skills is promoted and students' possible transformation into independent and autonomous learners is fostered because, by use of mobile technologies, they may successfully transfer information from their previous experiences to their current knowledge. Incorporating mobile learning (m-Learning) into their instruction and making social constructivism an integral part of their curriculum, ESL teachers can contribute to their students transformation into self-directed learners as an active, knowledge-building community and in charge of their own learning processes, which explains that this theory is highly compatible with the principles grounded in what Knowles proposed as a progressive learning approach for adult education: andragogy.
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Much of research on student learning ties to the importance of student experiences in engaged learning. Through their experiences, students see value in the information being taught and learn how to transfer the knowledge to real-world practice. Therefore, the learning process emerges as an active one especially in learning environments where adult ESL learners and teachers are actively engaged in the learning and teaching process, which helps students autonomously build bridges between their past and present experiences. By integrating technology into their instruction and making social constructivism (Vygotsky, 1978) an integral part of their curriculum, ESL teachers can help their students transform into self-directed learners as a knowledge-building community. Learning process is made active, and scaffolding is fostered. Use of cultural and verbal symbols is promoted as necessary tools for learning and teaching. Authentic activities, cooperative learning via interactive class discussions, technology-mediated learning, guided participation, cognitive modeling, inner-speech, self-talk, reciprocal teaching, and peer tutoring (Ormrod, 2008) can also be practiced through this learning pedagogy. With regards to the implementation of social constructivism in adult ESL classroom applications, the non-traditional group of linguistically and culturally diverse ESL students’ learning can be improved and their self-efficacy can be enhanced during the learning process by constant use of handheld, mobile devices. When mobile technologies are integrated into the content in a consistent manner, students become more likely to direct their own language learning activities in a way that they take individual initiatives, making informed decisions to acquire vocabulary, reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills with higher order critical thinking skills and collaboratively with their peers. This type of learning not only leads up to a second language learning process that is social, collective, and networked, but also mature, autonomous, confident, and intrinsically motivated, all of the learning principles that are highly conducive to what Knowles (1970) described as andragogy, or self-directed learning. It is through these learning principles that andragogy is an emerging learning pedagogy which can be linked with the constructivist learning theory (Vygotsky, 1978). Andragogical learning approach can be used in the language acquisition and improvement of adult ESL learners rather than on younger ESL students or adolescents. According to Knowles (1970), andragogy includes the following four assumptions: 1) self concept; 2) experience; 3) readiness to learn; and 4) orientation to learning. Democratic participation is another critical component of andragogy. Considering all of these foundational elements of the theory, andragogy can be regarded as yet another approach to learning in the design and delivery of effective instruction. Therefore, drawing on both the andragogical approach to learning and social constructivist pedagogy, this chapter aims to lead instructional designers to develop instructional products and/or training programs in adult ESL learning and teaching contexts in order to enhance students’ self-directed learning with a student-oriented approach. In the process of designing such instructional modules or programs, these instructional/curriculum designers can find the integration of language learning technologies into second language classes immensely helpful.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Social Constructivism: The central idea of constructivism is that human learning is constructed and that learners build new knowledge upon the foundation of previous learning. This view of learning sharply contrasts with one in which learning is the passive transmission of information from one individual to another, a view in which reception, not construction, is key. Vygotsky’s social constructivist theory can provide adult ESL students with the ability to construct their own meanings by critical thinking. Social constructivism is a learning perspective founded on the assumption that learning is focused on learners and promotes their active participation as they manage to construct their own knowledge depending on their own reality.

Instructional Design: The practice of arranging media (communication technology) and content to help learners and teachers transfer knowledge most effectively. The process consists broadly of determining the current state of learner understanding, defining the end goals of instruction, and creating media-based intervention to assist during the transition. Ideally, the process is informed by pedagogically tested theories of learning and may take place in student-only, teacher-led, or community-based settings.

Scaffolding: Refers to guidance from the facilitators during learning activities. Scaffolding paves the way for extending what students can perform with instructors’ or other knowledgeable adults’ instructional support and what they can actually perform within their zone of proximal development (ZPD).

Andragogy: Refers to instruction for adults, or adult learning, which focuses more on the process and less on the content being taught. In andragogical learning, strategies such as case studies, role playing, simulations, and self-evaluation are most useful. Instructors adopt a role of facilitator or resource rather than lecturer or grader. Andragogy makes the following assumptions about the design of learning: 1) adults need to know why they need to learn something; 2) adults need to learn experientially; 3) adults approach learning as problem-solving; and 4) adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value.

Autonomous Learning: Defined as an approach to learning with which learners hold the power or right to regulate and control their own learning activities. Learners are in charge of their own learning processes with autonomy. Autonomous learning is also called self-directed learning.

ELLs: An acronym used for English Language Learners who, like ESL students, originally speak a language other than English.

ESL: An acronym for English as a second language. It refers to the use or study of English by speakers with a different native language.

M-Learning: An acronym for mobile learning. M-learning is defined as learning across multiple contexts, through social and content interactions, using personal electronic devices, or mobile technologies. As a form of e-learning and distance education under the umbrella of educational technologies, m-Learning offers learners a variety of mobile devices they can utilize in many locations and at their time convenience.

ICTs: An acronym for information and communications technologies. It is an umbrella term that includes all technologies for the manipulation and communication of information. The term is sometimes used in preference to information technology (IT), particularly in two communities, education and government. ICTs are being used increasingly by global industry, international media, and academics to reflect the convergence of computer and communication technologies. Thus, ICTs can be viewed as a set of activities and technologies that fall into the union of IT and telecommunications.

Self-Directed Learning (SDL): Described as a process of learning by which individuals take the initiative, with or without the assistance of others, to diagnose their learning needs, formulate their learning goals, identify human and material resources useful for their learning, choose and implement appropriate learning strategies for themselves, and evaluate learning outcomes that they can benefit from.

ZPD: An acronym for zone of proximal development. ZPD is crucial in terms of defining learners’ both knowledge development and constructing meanings from the subject matter with a higher level of thinking.

MKOs: An acronym for more knowledgeable others who are primarily teachers, adults, or other more experienced individuals that guide children during their learning processes based on the premises of the Vygotskian social constructivist theory.

Millennials: Described as today’s learners born with the start of the millennium. Millennials engage in learning activities with technological advancements that align with the twenty-first century digital age, such as Web 2.0 technologies and more.

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