Another recent example of psychological constructivism is the cognitive theory of Jean Piaget.
Piaget described learning as interplay between two mental activities that he called assimilation and accommodation.
Assimilation is the interpretation of new information in terms of pre-existing concepts, information or ideas.
Example: A preschool child who already understands the concept of a bird might initially label any flying object with this term, even butterflies or mosquitoes.
Accommodation is the revision or modification of pre-existing concepts in terms of new information or experiences. It occurs alongside assimilation.
Example: A preschool child who initially generalises the concept of a bird to include any flying object, eventually revises the concept to include only particular kinds of flying objects, such as robins and sparrows but not others like mosquitoes or airplanes.
For Piaget, assimilation and accommodation work together to enrich a child’s thinking and to create cognitive equilibrium.
Cognitive equilibrium is a balance between reliance on prior information and openness to new information.
It consists of an ever-growing repertoire of mental representations for objects and experiences. Piaget called each mental representation a schema (plural: schemata).
A schema is a concept accompanied by an elaborated mixture of vocabulary, actions and experiences related to that concept.
Example: A child’s schema for bird includes not only the relevant verbal knowledge, but also the child’s experiences with birds, pictures of birds and conversations about birds.
As assimilation and accommodation about birds and other flying objects operate over time, the child does not just revise and add to his vocabulary, but also adds and remembers relevant new experiences and actions. From these collective revisions and additions the child gradually constructs whole new schemata about birds, butterflies, and other flying objects.
Learning according to Piaget: Assimilation+Accommodation -> Equilibrium -> Schemata
This model is quite individualistic as it does not say much about how other people involved with the learner might assist in assimilating or accommodating information.
His theory is therefore often considered less about learning and more about development or long term change in a person resulting from multiple experiences that may not be planned deliberately.