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How I Use Constructivism in the ClassroomA2 Coursework

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The value of being a constructivist teacher

Although I do not specifically label myself as a constructivist teacher, many of the philosophical components of constructivism resonate with me and my philosophy of instruction. Constructivism views learners as active participants in knowledge acquisition and stresses that learning is constructed socially, versus something that is objectively understood. What makes an educated person is something that is agreed upon by society, no child is born either a bad or a good learner. Some children may have an easier time fitting in because of their natural learning style and inclinations but it is up to the constructivist teacher to understand this: the constructivist teacher is willing to "commonly acknowledge the active role of the learner in interpretation of reality" (Gulati 2004).

For example, some students are extremely good at sitting still at their desks and following directions. Other students have difficulty in paying attention over the course of a lecture. While it is important that all students develop their critical listening skills, as a teacher I need to be mindful of when to use strategies to enhance student learning for students who fit in less easily to the mode of traditional instruction. Breaking down lectures into smaller and more manageable sections for students with attention issues can be useful. I also try to use a wide variety of examples, given that certain points of reference are not shared by all students.

I believe that a good teacher is willing to answer students' questions about why they are learning things. Constructivism supports learning by doing or the idea that learners need to participate in their educations in a hands-on fashion for it to be meaningful. According to Jonassen (1994) one of the foremost, core components of constructivism is that there are "multiple representations of reality" that resist oversimplification (cited by Chen, 2006). A teacher never merely says we are learning this because we must or because that is the way we have always done things; a teacher enters into a discussion with students. For example, when teaching the scientific method, a teacher can ask the class about the perceived risks if the scientific method is not followed (causing them to speculate how bias and inaccurate results can be dangerous in science). This enables children to own their learning in a way that they will not if the information is merely spoon-fed to them.

What resonates with me about the constructivist approach in terms of curriculum design is that learning is active. Instead, students have a meaningful role in how learning evolves in the classroom. Like many constructivist teachers I began by asking students what they know and try to create a bridge between that and the curriculum objectives. The goals of the learning process may change slightly, depending on the needs of the classroom although of course I have to meet the objectives for the year. However, the ways in which students acquire that knowledge may need to be individualized. The different learning levels in the classroom, student temperament, and student interests will all affect learning. Learning is never by rote and teachers and students both must take a problem-solving approach. Sometimes I ask 'since we as a class need to learn how to do x,' what do students think they need to do to better understand the concept ("Education theory," 2015). Giving frequent quizzes which do not count a great deal to the student's final grade but which provide me with feedback so I can tailor my instruction to their needs is also helpful.

Constructivist approaches can be team-based and thus can also be used to teach important social skills to children. Children can discuss their beliefs and challenge one another as they embark upon a problem and generate solutions. This can also make use of students' diverse abilities. When assigning a project to students, students can be asked to generate visual, verbal, and written components collectively (a poster, a presentation, and a research paper) about an issue such as what life was like during the Revolutionary War. As well as approaching the specifics of the topic, students learn how to learn and work together. It should be noted that the teacher is not passive any more than the students are passive: the teacher creates expectations to generate a fruitful learning environment; for example, framing the problem and setting up challenges to test student learning. The teacher also asks questions and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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