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Learners create meaning by grasping and transforming experience (Kolb, 1984). This understanding provides the foundation for the over arching theory of constructivism and is proceduralized by the fluid interconnection of the community of inquiry (CoI) and practical inquiry models (PIM). Through the strategic use of these models, critical thinking skills and dispositions are both called upon and developed.

Constructivism is the educational theory that learners learn best by creating meaning from experience (Driscoll, 1993). Constructivism earned its footing through researchers such as Kolb (1984), who believed that “knowledge results from the combination of grasping and transforming experience” (p. 41), and Vygotsky (1978), who proposed that learning takes place as learners build new ability levels. Dewey (1997) held that learning took place when the past met the present learning situation. Bruner (1966, 1985) identified the interaction between experienced teachers and learners seeking to build on what they know as scaffolding. A number of researchers refer to constructivism and its associated learning processes as providing the best framework for nurturing critical thinking skills (Brookfield, 1987; Paul & Elder, 2005; Quitadamo, 2001). Mayes (2001) provides an overview of constructivist learning, classified in four ways:

  1. learning communities,
  2. authentic tasks,
  3. collaborative learning, and
  4. reflection and dialogue.

A number of researchers have recognized computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) as allowing instructional benefits for developing critical thinking (Land & Dornisch, 2002; Sharma & Hannafin, 2007).


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