Identify examples that illustrate how your own activities of teaching adopt a constructivist perspective. Identify examples of where they don't. Do you feel you have achieved a good balance between 'telling" and "facilitating" (do you understand this distinction?)
(I'm pretty sure that this cartoon was also in one of the seminars we've had, but I just love how well it sums up the juxtaposition of constructivism in the classroom)
I am willing to admit that, prior to studying this Masters course, I had no idea what the term Constructivism meant at all. I was surprised then to learn that constructivist theory was something that I had consciously been applying -or striving to apply- throughout my teaching career over the past 5 years.
I'm a firm believer in not teaching for teaching's sake, ie in trying (where possible) to highlight the real-world application of all new skills and knowledge taught. The rationale behind this is so that no individual in any lesson I teach can say 'Well what was the point of that?/This has got nothing to do with me...' etc etc. As a student, I was regrettably guilty of this on numerous occasions, and still wish some of my teachers at secondary school had sometimes worked harder to relate their lessons to the real world - be it through sports, entertainment, career opportunities or anything else that could have made a teenager sit up and listen. But how does this relate to constuctivism?
Constructivism is fundamentally based around the idea of using one's current knowledge and understanding as a basis for learning. This can obviously be interpreted schematically, for example, ensuring that a child can name the basic anatomy of a plant before teaching pollination. Yet this definition of constructivism is less often interpreted as establishing a real-world link between the subject matter and the child prior to teaching, for example, discussing how weeds and grass began growing over that muddy part of the school field without any gardener intervening -before teaching pollination. It is in this way that I attempt to introduce most new concepts to children - as even primary school children can have a broad perspective on the world, given the wealth of media they are subjected to nowadays. I try to embrace other aspects of constructivism too, for example allowing children time with apparatus to 'figure out' how to create a scientific investigation on a particular subject already discussed.
But is it always possible to adopt this constructivist approach? With some lessons, such as say, teaching of the necessity to vary complex sentences, the answer is of course 'not very'. But there is a concerning trend in primary education for teachers to push for 'quantity of evidence' in children's work. This has led to many primary schools performing weekly 'book trawls' to ensure students are producing a satisfactory amount of work on a daily, lesson-by-lesson basis. This can occasionally result in the omission of discussion and exploration time, being replaced instead by the much speedier dictation or 'telling' approach -a sure-fire way to get ink in books quickly. Whilst this is an increasing trend in primary schools that I fundamentally disagree with, I have to shamefully admit that in the lead-up to exams I have on occasion been forced to teach some lessons in this manner. Nevertheless, since before hearing of the terminology, constructivism is an approach that I have always considered essential to teaching a good lesson.
Posted by Iain Rockley on 18 January 2014, 6:11 PM
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